How will Green Bay go about replacing All-Pro production from wide receiver Davante Adams?
That’s one of the jar full of questions that squarely faced the Packers entering 2022.
The best guess seemed obvious in September: Green Bay would lean on its running game, an established force, while it protected the football and developed a young crop of wide receivers.
The right answer for the Packers was much more convoluted.
Green Bay hurried along the progress of two of its three drafted skill players, Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson, giving both baby-faced wideouts mega roles at different stages of the season.
The Packers also didn’t run the ball as effectively, or as often, as expected. That’s a story for a different day (well, not actually – we’ll address Green Bay’s RB usage in notes at the bottom).
Ultimately, the group effort the Packers depended on offensively didn’t work. In all, Green Bay gave snaps to eight wide receivers, ranging in age and skill, and none took our mind off Adams.
In layman’s terms: They had no answer.
In 2022, Green Bay’s top-three WRs combined for 1,824 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns on 143 catches. Adams, with the Las Vegas Raiders, compiled a line of 100-1,516-14 on his own.
“It’s always tough going from Hall of Famer to Hall of Famer. From Davante to Allen [Lazard], it’s going to be a transition,” four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers said tongue-in-cheek at Packers training camp.
Rodgers’ playful mood expired the first offensive snap of the season when Watson, whom the club traded up for in the second round of last April’s draft, blatantly dropped what would – and should – have been a 75-yard touchdown. It took Watson weeks to redeem himself.
For the next three-and-a-half months, Green Bay’s passing game consistently featured a bizarre combination of woes and whoas, appropriately described as forms of torture and euphoria.
Its touchdown frequency inside the 10-yard line in 2022 hatched what several people have dubbed The Davante Adams Effect. The Packers crossed the goal stripe 17 times in 71 plays. Compare that 23.9% TD rate to 2021 when Green Bay converted on 32 of 100 trips inside the 10 (32%). The Packers were even better in 2020, getting six points on 40 of 91 attempts (44%).
Furthermore, Rodgers tossed 48 touchdowns in the low red zone between 2020-21, almost half (20) belonging to Adams. Rodgers had 11 such TDs in 2022. Meanwhile, Adams had four with the black and silver. The reality is winning in that area is one of Adams’ innumerable specialties.
And the Packers missed it dearly.
Lazard, the veteran and presumptive No. 1 WR that Rodgers jokingly referenced in conversation about Adams, did lead the Packers pass-catchers in offensive snaps, with 863, but recorded a pedestrian 788 yards on 60 catches. Thirty-eight receivers, including four rookies – Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Drake London and George Pickens – accounted for more yards.
On the topic of rookies, Green Bay’s threesome of Doubs, Watson and seventh-rounder Samori Toure, had good, bad and ugly performances at times during their maiden voyages in the NFL.
Doubs edged Watson for the second-most snaps among Packers WRs, logging 529, or 48.35% of the group’s total plays, across 13 games. For a stretch, until he was curbed by a hurt ankle, Doubs, who Green Bay discovered in the fourth round by way of Nevada, briefly served as Rodgers’ favorite option, seeing 30 targets spanning four games from Sept. 25-Oct. 16.
When Doubs went down, Watson emerged.
By the end of the campaign, the size-speed freak out of North Dakota State was a star. Watson’s final line of 41-611-7 via 507 snaps (46.34%) doesn’t do his impact justice. Not at all.
Watson’s breakthrough occurred Nov. 13 vs. Dallas, catching four balls for 107 yards and three TDs. He kept pace the next three games, producing another five scores and 255 total yards.
Watson ended the season on a high note, as well, tallying 104 yards in the finale vs. Detroit. He was the closest thing Green Bay’s offense had to a real-deal deep threat like it did with Adams.
Toure played a smaller role than his rookie comrades, not debuting until Week 7 and receiving 112 snaps overall. To his credit, he produced a splash play, a 37-yard TD, as early as Game 2.
The rest of Green Bay’s wide receivers were a mess. Either semi-washed up or ineffective.
Randall Cobb was next in regards to snaps, playing 371 over 13 games in Year 12. Cobb had what amounted to three good games and improved on his yardage from 2021, gaining 42 more yards, reaching 417, in one fewer game. Yet, his one TD was his fewest since he was a rookie.
Two other notable WRs are no longer part of the organization.
Amari Rodgers, a third-round pick in 2021, was released Nov. 15 after fumbling seven times in 26 games. Rodgers had four catches for a whopping 50 yards on 98 offensive snaps in 2022.
For what it’s worth, he was kind of reborn after getting picked up by Houston. In six games with the Texans, Rodgers posted 12 receptions for 154 yards and a TD. Nothing too special.
Lastly, there’s Sammy Watkins. In his only season with the Packers, the oft-injured 29-year-old caught 13 passes for 206 yards while playing approximately one-fourth of the offensive snaps. Watkins, a former top-five draft pick, was cut Dec. 19 hours before the Pack appeared on MNF.
As stated, Green Bay had no answer for replacing what Adams brought to the table.
Other notes from Green Bay’s season snap counts:
– Something we’re not sold on for 2023: AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones spearheading Green Bay’s rushing attack. Granted, on paper, Dillon and Jones this season carried more times, rushed for more yards and scored as many TDs on the ground as they did in 2021. Still, we’re not sold. Dillon didn’t take the third-year leap we imagined. He received a 49.09% snapshare, to 57.59% for Jones, and saw his rushing total and average dip slightly, as well as his production in the passing game. Jones was a bigger disappointment, fumbling a career-high five times while hitting paydirt just twice as a ball carrier and five times through the air (his fewest TDs since tallying four as a rookie in 2017). A shuffled O-line definitely impacted this duo’s effectiveness.
– Green Bay’s mash-up of WRs weren’t afforded much assistance by a collection of tight ends. Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara and Tyler Davis combined for 76 catches, 676 yards and four TDs. We listed the foursome in order of snaps: Tonyan (591), Lewis (451), Deguara (258) and Davis (174). Tonyan led them with 470 yards and tied Lewis with two TDs.
– Packers stalwarts David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins made their respective returns from knee injuries and wound up playing 597 and 960 of the 1,094 possible snaps on offense. The former started 11 games, the latter 15. Bakhtiari earned the 11th-best grade out of 81 qualifying tackles per Pro Football Focus. Jenkins, in turn, ranked 12th among 78 guards in cumulative score.
– Rookie offensive lineman Zach Tom was Mr. Versatility for Green Bay this season. Tom, the 140th selection in the 2022 NFL draft out of Wake Forest, made five starts in nine appearances. Of his 489 snaps, he took 302 at left tackle, 96 at left guard and 91 anchoring the right flank.
– Safety Adrian Amos led Packers defenders with 977 snaps in 2022, good for a 94.58% share. The workload translated to solid production for Amos, who set career highs in tackles (102) and tackles for loss (7). In what may have been his final season with Green Bay – the 29-year-old is set to hit free agency in March – Amos intercepted one pass and was credited with five PBUs.
– Rasul Douglas and Jaire Alexander played the most snaps, 914 and 901, among Packers cornerbacks. (Note: Week 1 starter Eric Stokes was ruled out for the rest of the year in early November, and limited to 477 snaps in his second NFL season, due to ankle and knee injuries.) The Douglas-Alexander pairing was one of the club’s defensive strengths in 2022 – the tandem was responsible for nine interceptions and 27 passes defensed, not to mention 141 tackles.
– Green Bay got contributions in 2022 from three rookie defenders: No. 22 overall pick inside linebacker Quay Walker, defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt (No. 28) and rush linebacker Kingsley Enagbare (No. 179). Walker fared the best and played the largest role by far, leading the team in tackles, with 121, via 846 snaps (81.90%). A Day 1 starter, Walker tied A.J. Hawk’s rookie record for tackles and became the third first-year Packer since 1987 to rack up 100 or more. There were negatives to Walker’s game, too – look no further than two ejections for inexcusably shoving a member of the opposing team’s athletic training staff. Walker’s college teammate, Wyatt, experienced a fraction of the former’s chances to make an impact, receiving 224 snaps over 16 games. Wyatt finished with 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks. After Walker, Enagbare was the top rookie defender for Green Bay. The fifth-round pick out of South Carolina started seven of the last eight games and played 465, or 45.01% of the total D snaps. Enagbare’s increased role coincided with star OLB Rashan Gary tearing his ACL on Nov. 6 against the Lions. Enagbare pitched in to the Packers’ anemic pass rush – they had 34 sacks and 125 pressures, both bottom-10 marks in the NFL – with three quarterback takedowns and 25 pressures. A fine start!
– Players often say the hardest thing to do in the NFL is replicate success. The second biggest challenge might be staying healthy for a 17-game slate. Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell had a tough go in both areas in 2022, but more so the latter. Missing four games due to a knee injury, Campbell finished well below the 146 tackles he made during his first All-Pro season in 2021. On the field for 694 snaps, about 300 fewer than last year, Campbell compiled 96 stops. He did, however, match his interception total from a season ago (2) and had a pick-six at Washington.
– Defensive back Keisean Nixon weaponized Green Bay’s kickoff return unit this season, totaling NFL bests in returns (35) and yards (1,009) with one TD and a 28.8-yard average. We’re here to tell you Nixon can do more – and did. On defense, Nixon played 289 snaps, predominantly manning the slot. His stats included 23 tackles, one INT and two pass breakups.
– We highly doubt anyone had Rudy Ford playing close to half Green Bay’s defensive snaps on their bingo cards. Ford, signed Aug. 31 by the Packers after stints with Arizona, Philadelphia and Jacksonville, had a career season in 2022, starting six of 17 games and picking off three passes. Ford was on the field for 442 defensive snaps (42.79%) – the crazy part is the majority of those opportunities occurred simultaneously with Green Bay’s resurrection in the second half. The 2017 sixth-round draft pick of the Cardinals logged 67 snaps through the first nine weeks. He nearly equaled that amount in his first start of the season vs. Dallas on Nov. 13 and handled 375 snaps across the final eight games. You could argue Ford was the 2022 version of Douglas.