How much will Davante Adams’ absence affect Aaron Rodgers?

What will life be like with these two no longer together?

What will life be like with these two no longer together?
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In 2021, with the help of Davante Adams, Aaron Rodgers threw for 37 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Those 37 touchdowns were tied for fourth-most in the NFL. Rodgers didn’t have much help outside of Adams. While Adams did catch 11 of those touchdowns (29.73 percent of Rodgers’ total), that’s less than the percentage of touchdowns Adams caught the year prior (18 of 48 — 37.5 percent).

Rodgers did rely on Adams more for receptions and yardage though, and that has several people worried about what Rodgers can do next season with a wide receiver room void of proven, high-end talent. I mean, for goodness sake, the man is a back-to-back MVP and hasn’t finished worse than QB9 in fantasy since 2017 when he played only seven games. Yet for some reason, several people are ranking Rodgers as low as QB15. There’s a whole-ass article about how he’s not worth starting in your league anymore on ESPN.

While losing someone as talented as Adams definitely hurts, 99 percent of the time the quarterback is the more pivotal part of that connection and thus, while Rodgers’ production might dip, it shouldn’t fall off a cliff like these projections are saying, right? I wanted to get to the bottom of this potential Rodgers disrespect. The dude’s talented and should be able to captain a more than capable offense with whomever he’s forced to throw to.

In 2021, Adams missed one game, Week 8 at Arizona. The Packers won. Rodgers completed 22-of-37 passes for two touchdowns and no interceptions. He had a passer rating of 90.4. It is one of the worst games Rodgers has played without Adams since 2017. If that’s his floor, I’m sure the Packers aren’t losing any sleep.

In 2020, Adams missed two games — Week 3 at New Orleans and Week 4 at home against Atlanta. Were either of those teams solid pass defenses that year? The Falcons certainly weren’t. They allowed the most yards through the air of any team in the league, but the Saints were a top-5 pass defense, allowing only 3,472 yards that season and recording the most interceptions of any team (18) — tied with the Steelers, Patriots, and Dolphins.

In those two games, Rodgers completed 73.85 percent of his passes (higher than his percentage for the season as a whole), 610 yards (305 per game — higher than his average for the season), seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Packers scored 30-plus points in both games. In the Saints’ game specifically, Rodgers went 21-of-32 for 283 yards and three scores. Not as good, but still solid. In both games, Rodgers’ top receiver was tight end Robert Tonyan, and wouldn’t you know it, Tonyan is still on the team in 2022.

In 2019, Adams missed four games, Weeks 5-8. Two of those games were against top-10 passing defenses that year — Dallas and Kansas City, both of which were on the road. Green Bay went 4-0. Rodgers completed 68.61 percent of his passes (six percent higher than his average that year). He threw 10 touchdowns and just one interception, which, ironically, didn’t happen against Dallas or Kansas City. The Packers scored 30 points in three of those four games, and dropped 40 once. They scored 30 just one other time the entire season. Rodgers’ top receivers were: Week 5 — Aaron Jones (still on the team); Week 6 — Allen Lazard (still on the team); Week 7 — Marquez Valdes-Scantling (not on the team, but he only caught two passes); Week 8 — Aaron Jones (still on the team). Even if Jones and Lazard have dipped in production since then, they’ve clearly got a connection with Rodgers, and are talented enough to shoulder a passing attack even without Adams.

I’m not saying the loss of Adams won’t hurt, and with Rodgers heading into his age-39 season, he could use all the help he can get. However, Rodgers has proven that he doesn’t rely on one singular receiver in order to find success, and implying that Rodgers’ touchdowns or yardage will drop because Adams is no longer on the team just doesn’t line up with what Rodgers has done in the past without him.

Not to mention, the Packers’ improved their WR room outside of Adams since last year. You’re really going to tell me you’d rather have MVS than both Sammy Watkins and Christian Watson? I don’t think so. The losses aside from Adams do not outweigh the gains. The loss that people should be talking about is offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who is now the head coach of the Denver Broncos. Under Hackett, Rodgers revamped his career after suffering a serious injury in 2017 and enduring his first losing season as Green Bay’s quarterback in 2018. So, how much does Hackett’s departure affect Rodgers’ value?

Considering Rodgers’ age, it’s hard to predict. That said, we can compare the histories of both Hackett and new offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich to try to predict how different the Packers offense will look. When Hackett joined the Packers, he was best known for serving as Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, he led the Jaguars to the league’s best rushing attack and couldn’t duplicate that success in 2018. Jacksonville never had a solid passing attack with Hackett as their OC. Before the Jags, he was an offensive coordinator for the Bills, where the team once again struggled to muster any sort of passing offense, but were elite on the ground. Of course, Rodgers is much more talented than Blake Bortles and E.J. Manuel, but it goes to show that even if Rodgers is given an OC not known for elevating quarterbacks, he can still put up dominant numbers.

In much the same vein, Stenavich’s history is that of a run-first-minded coach. He served as the Packers’ offensive line coach for the last three years and, in 2021, he was also named the team’s run-game coordinator. Sound familiar? Yes, Hackett had worked with quarterbacks in the past, as a quality coach in Buffalo in 2008 and 2009, but that was literally a decade before he worked with Rodgers. Times definitely changed in that span. Stenavich has never worked with quarterbacks, but as the Packers’ offensive line coach, he likely has a deep understanding of the Packers’ offense as well as what the offense can do with Aaron Rodgers under center. I’m not saying Stenavich is an upgrade over Hackett. He’s not, but there isn’t enough to cause concern for Rodgers’ production from that change.

The only way I see Rodgers falling off the table as hard as some people are predicting is if the Packers’ lean more heavily on the run game this season, which could happen, but considering that their schedule consists of five top-10 run defenses from last year (Titans, Bucs, Rams, Eagles, Commanders) — the same amount of games they had against top-10 run defenses last year (Saints, Rams, 49ers, Bengals, Commanders), it shouldn’t be that far off, if different at all.

All in all, Rodgers will have a tougher time in 2022, but to say that he can’t compete near the same level he has in 2020 and 2021 is a disservice to Rodgers’ talent. He is known as the most talented quarterback of all-time, and no receiver, offensive coordinator, or trippy girlfriend can take that away from him. I haven’t drafted for any of my leagues yet, but I’ll tell you this much. If I know Rodgers isn’t going until the ninth round (as most projections would suggest), I’ll gladly hold off on Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, and Kirk Cousins because I don’t believe for a second that Rodgers’ finishes outside the top-10 this year.

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