In probably the least surprising development out of the NFL’s first week, the most accomplished receiver of Aaron Rodgers’s career with the Green Bay Packers was sorely missed in the team’s first game without him. While the Pack fell to the Vikings 23-7 in a game where their offense could never get into gear, they also had to deal with Davante Adams showing off all his talents on Sunday for the team they traded him to in the offseason, the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Adams trade, for a first and second round pick in the 2022 draft, paired with the loss in free agency of another key Rodgers target, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, to create a ton of questions surrounding the Green Bay offense heading into the new season. Trying to fill the void are presumed top target Allen Lazard, who missed Week 1 due to injury, journeyman Sammy Watkins, the unkillable Randall Cobb, and the rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. And even though their quarterback is coming off back-to-back MVP seasons, which imply that he can make a hero out of any player with limbs, perhaps just a few weeks of training camp without any preseason action wasn’t enough for the revamped group of wideouts to intertwine their life forces with Rodgers’s sanctified aura of dynamic energy. At the very least, the practice drops that Rodgers was complaining about all the way back in August reappeared to set the tone on the offense’s first play from scrimmage.
The Packers’ drives in the first half ended in three punts, an interception on an attempted deep throw to Cobb, and a failure to convert at the goal line on fourth down. Then this mess of a sack fumble at the start of the third quarter, helped along by an already wounded offensive line, led to a 20-0 Vikes lead and pretty much killed any remaining hope that this day could contain a positive first step forward.
The Packers’ leading receiver in this game was their running back, AJ Dillon, who caught five passes for just 46 yards. Their best actual WR, Doubs, caught four for 37. Another way to put it: Davante Adams gained 21 more yards for the Raiders on Sunday than every single Packer listed as a receiver combined. Though Vegas failed to pull out a win against the Chargers, Adams looked spectacular, beguiling the Boltmen defense with sure hands and fluttering footwork. You can see a whole collection of his contributions here, but of his 10 catches for 141 yards and a TD, the one that seemed to have the most people talking was this gorgeously upsetting route run on a critical touchdown drive to pull within seven at the start of the third quarter.
After registering his surprise with the Adams trade back in the spring, and watching Minnesota WR Justin Jefferson dance through his defense all day, it would have been fun to see Rodgers go full I told you so at the front office after the loss. But more predictably, he kept the mood light and forgiving when discussing his new receiving corps.
“Look, we’ve got to have patience with those guys,” he said. “They’re young. They haven’t been in the fire. The patience will be thinner as the season goes on, but the expectation will be high. We’ll keep them accountable, but it’s going to happen. There’s going to be drops. Hate to see it on the first play, but it’s part of it—there’s going to be drops throughout the season.”
Looking at recent Packers history, it’s not hard at all to see why the mood is so chill even after such an ugly ass-kicking. Just last year, Rodgers and Green Bay opened the year to an embarrassing 38-3 pounding by the Saints and then won 13 out of their next 15. Several other seasons in Rodgers’s 14-year career as the man in Wisconsin have seen shaky starts followed by respectable outcomes—they were 4-6 before making it to the NFC title game in 2016, and they lost to the Lions to fall to 1-2 before doing the same in 2014. By this point, Aaron Rodgers has seen it all, in this dimension and presumably several others, so there’s no reason to get steamed about one stupid loss. But it would be pretty funny if he reluctantly came back to Green Bay just to deal with this all year.