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2021 Rewind: Davante Adams vs Cincinnati Bengals

A 200-yard performance for the Raiders’ new wideout

Green Bay Packers v Cincinnati Bengals
Davante Adams
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

So far in this column, I’ve been focusing specifically on guys who played for the Las Vegas Raiders last season. But today, we’re going to shift gears a bit and flip on some Green Bay Packers tape to take a look at one of the newest and arguably most important Raiders for the 2022 season, Davante Adams.

Adams earned his second first-team All-Pro selection with a personal best 123 catches for 1,553 yards during the regular season. He also managed to post a career-high Pro Football Focus overall grade of 92.7 which ranked second among the league’s wide receivers, and his Week 5 performance against the Cincinnati Bengals was a big reason why.

In that contest, he hauled in 11 of 16 targets for 206 yards and a touchdown with a 93.0 overall PFF grade. The former Packer caught the second-most passes among wideouts for the week and was the top dog yardage- and grade-wise. Ten of his 11 catches went for a first down or touchdown while he also posted the third-highest yards per route run (5.57) at the position for the week.

So far, this is Adam’s only game in eight seasons where he eclipsed the 200-yard mark and it’s extremely impressive to watch how it all unfolded.

Our first clip isn’t all that impressive from a skillset standpoint, but I wanted to include it to highlight how Adams can impact a defense’s game plan.

The Bengals run cover three here, bringing the SAM linebacker – No. 24, the right off-ball backer – on a blitz and run a simulated pressure with the two standup outside linebackers on the weak side – Nos. 21 and 94 at the top of the screen – in pass rush stances pre-snap. But those two end up dropping into coverage so it’s still a four-man rush.

That’s important because Cincinnati is using one natural defensive back to get pressure on the quarterback and has another playing on the line of scrimmage, and since they run zone coverage behind it, Adams gets covered by a couple of linebackers on the drag route. As you can imagine, the best wide receiver in the game versus a couple of guys wearing numbers in the 50s is a mismatch, and the wideout easily outruns the defenders for about a 25-yard gain.

It’s hard to run these types of coverages with Adams on the field, for this reason, so it forces defensive coordinators to be more vanilla. Simulated pressures aren’t as effective because defensive backs need that cushion or buffer to stay with him in coverage, and the defense needs as much help as it can get to cover him so it’s a big gamble to send a DB on a blitz. That should give the offensive line and quarterback a more “true read” pre-snap, meaning the defense can’t disguise the pressure, making it easier to set the protection.

By now, you’ve probably heard about Adams’ release package to beat press coverage. Well, here you’re going to see an example and how it can help him create separation.

Cincinnati runs a version of cover six where the field side of the defense – top of the screen – is running cover four and the boundary side – bottom of the screen – is in cover two. The one wrinkle they do is have the boundary corner – No. 20, Eli Apple – lock onto Adams in man coverage while everyone else is running zone. The hope is that Trey Hendricks – No. 91, the standup right outside linebacker – will be in the throwing window to take away a slant to Adams, and Apple can stay locked onto him.

However, the play-action forces Hendricks to come downhill and Adams wins at the line of scrimmage with his patented crossover release to avoid contact from Apple, and that forces Apple to play catchup throughout the route. From there, Adams gets out of his break and recognizes he’s in a hole in the defense’s zone coverage to look for and expect the ball immediately after cutting. He caps it off by digging out a low ball and putting the offense in the red zone.

When a wideout can win like this at the line of scrimmage, the route becomes that much easier.

Red zone scoring has been an issue for the Raiders over the last several years as they’ve done well to get the ball down there and walk away with at least three points, but putting the ball in the end zone has been an issue. Part of the reason is they haven’t had a go-to guy near the goal line but that will change with the former Packer’s arrival.

This is just a simple goal-line fade where Aaron Rodgers likes the one-on-one matchup Adams has at the bottom of the screen. On the release, Adams does a good job of varying his speed and staying square to lull the cornerback to sleep a bit and force the corner to still honor the slant/an inside route. He then explodes to the outside to create some room between him and the corner and simultaneously, gives Rodgers enough space for the back-shoulder throw.

The cherry on top is he goes up and high points the ball and has the body control to turn while making the catch to prevent the defensive back from being able to make a play. Ignore the last-ditch effort to poke the ball out at the end, the play was reviewed and confirmed as a touchdown.

How about a deep bomb to flip the field around?

The Packers line up in a modern-day pro-set formation with the quarterback in shotgun and the two receivers in the boundary – bottom of the screen – in a bunch formation. Adams is in the slot with a press corner over the top of him so Green Bay sends the outside receiver on a jet motion to get a coverage indicator and get the press corner to slide inside. Once Rodgers sees the nickel move, he knows where to go with the ball.

The Bengals run cover four and should have a two-on-one advantage with the boundary safety – No. 30, Jessie Bates – and wide corner – No. 22, Chidobe Awuzie — both playing deep. However, Bates comes a step or two too far downhill and Adams freezes Awuzie with the stutter-step on the seam route. From there, the wideout kicks it into second gear to run past both defenders, tracks the ball in the air and makes a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch to set up a touchdown opportunity.

That’s the down-field threat the Raiders offense was missing after Henry Ruggs’ release.

If you’ve ever heard of someone having strong hands at the catch point, this is a perfect example of what they’re talking about.

The first thing I love about this play is it looks like Adams recognizes that he’s going to be one-on-one with Awuzie, the Bengals’ best corner from last year, and signals to Rodgers pre-snap to look his way. Then, he does a solid job on the release to beat press coverage, albeit not as cleanly as the other rep, and snaps the route off at the top to create some separation.

I have to give Awuzie some credit, it’s a decent effort to stay in Adams’ hip and be in a position to make a play on the ball, especially with Rodgers throwing it a little behind, but the wideout has great concentration and is strong at the catch point to bring it in. The endzone view in the clip above does a great job of showing that off.

The situation here is also important. It’s a tie game with 22 seconds left and Adams not only comes up with a clutch play to set up a game-winning field goal attempt, but he also recognizes when the play is over and dives down instead of dancing to try to make the two defenders miss and subsequently, wasting precious seconds. An excellent play capped off with some excellent situational awareness/football IQ.