GREEN BAY — Tramon Williams smiled at the question Saturday, as if he’d been waiting for the chance to riff on just how good Davante Adams has been this season.
In his dozen years as an NFL cornerback, Williams has covered some of the all-time greats – including three Pro Football Hall of Famers (Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Marvin Harrison) – and often drew the opposing No. 1 receiver during his time as one of the top cover men in the league, including during the Green Bay Packers’ 2010 run to the Super Bowl XLV title.
But during his three years away from Green Bay, Williams never had to cover Adams, the Packers’ No. 1 receiver. And for that, he is grateful. Because as cliché as it might sound, Williams said Saturday, he’s glad Adams is on his team.
“His skill set is so different than a lot of guys. A lot of guys at his size can’t move like he can move,” Williams said of the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Adams. “He has such a quick first step, and most guys you get at his size, for a corner my size (5-11, 191), they probably wouldn’t be too challenging to cover. Guys might still make plays, because they’re big, but as far as covering them and worrying about them beating you over the top or just getting open on you, you don’t even worry about that.
“Davante, he has a subtleness about him that not a lot of guys have in this league – unless they’re smaller receivers. He can change speeds and get out of his breaks like a smaller receiver. You can’t really coach that.”
New offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who held that same job from 2007 through 2011 in Green Bay and is coaching Adams for the first time, describes it this way: “When you watch him sometimes, it’s almost like he’s in glide mode. And then all of a sudden, there’s that burst, that move, that kind of extra gear that he has. That ‘sneaky’ speed. I kind of kid him, he’s got something slithery about him – even though he’s a big man, a big guy.”
Adams enters Monday night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field having caught 37 passes for 425 yards and four touchdowns in five games. That puts him on a pace for 118 receptions (which would break Sterling Sharpe’s 1993 franchise single-season record of 112) for 1,360 yards and 13 touchdowns.
He’s coming off a game in which the Detroit Lions matched their best cornerback, Darius Slay – a top-flight corner who was coming off his first Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro selection – with him last week. The result? Adams caught nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. It didn’t matter that the Packers’ other receivers in the game were three rookies, or that Slay is one of the league’s best shutdown corners.
“You know, ‘17’ is obviously a different type of player. He’s a different breed,” Rodgers said, referring to Adams by his jersey number. “He has the ability to do things with his releases that allows him to get open and defeat leverage.”
Adams’ numbers in 2016 (75 receptions, 997 yards, 12 touchdowns) and 2017 (74 catches, 885 yards, 10 touchdowns despite Rodgers missing nine games and Adams missing two games and parts of two others) validated Rodgers’ opinion. That year also taught Adams an important lesson: That only a significant injury could prevent him from playing to his potential.
“I definitely learned that the hard way, just going through that (season). I wouldn’t take it back, having that experience, because that definitely made me a better player,” Adams said. “I feel like I had an incredible work ethic before that, but that boosted it – because now, my biggest thing is, now that I know that when I’m healthy I can go out and dominate, it’s just making sure I keep it that way. I’m doing everything I can now where that’ll be the only way I’ll get hurt (is by) something out of my control.”