The loss of Randall Cobb this offseason to free agency left a void at the slot receiver position that Cobb had filled for a number of seasons and left many wondering who the Green Bay Packers would find to fill that role?
The conventional thought of most fans was that the Packers would either bring in an option through free agency or use one of their early round draft picks on the position.
Yet, even with all the noise that they made in free agency, a receiver was not brought in and with plenty of options in the draft – including A.J. Brown and N’Keal Harry – the Packers wouldn’t spend a pick on the position.
In today’s NFL where most teams are trying to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands as quick as possible to avoid the pass rush, the slot receiver plays an important role. And with new head coach Matt LaFleur, it plays an integral part in his offense.
However, the “typical” slot receiver that is a bit smaller than most and is very quick, such as a Cobb or a Wes Welker, isn’t the type of player that LaFleur needs in the slot. Which is a good thing considering the Packers don’t have that player on the roster.
According to Pro Football Focus, in Tennessee last season we saw the 6’3″ – 209 lb. Corey Davis take 240 snaps in the slot. The previous year with the L.A. Rams, Cooper Kupp at 6’2″ – 208, played 465 snaps from the slot. And in Atlanta under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan during the 2016 season, Mohamed Sanu who clocks in at 6’2″ – 215 lbs. was in the slot for 450 snaps and even Julio Jones took 191 snaps from there that year.
So given Matt LaFleur’s past and his offensive system, it makes sense as to why the Packers didn’t prioritize the position this offseason.
Now with Training Camp on the horizon, most fans want to know, who will be Green Bay’s slot receiver in 2019?
So far we have heard speculation around Equanimeous St. Brown, whose sheer size and speed would make him a difficult matchup for any slot corner. As well as Geronimo Allison who took some snaps in the slot during offseason programs.
With that said, while each of them are fine options and they will without a doubt take snaps there this season, we have overlooked Davante Adams who has been very effective from the slot, especially in 2018.
Last season according to Pro Football Focus, from the slot Adams would catch 27 out of the 36 passes thrown his way for 317 yards and three touchdown receptions.
Not that Adams needs any help getting open as he is a tactician with his hands and footwork, but from the slot, corners won’t be able to press cover him as they would on the outside and it will also make it difficult for the defense to identify what routes he will be running.
Prior to the draft, LaFleur had this to say about this ideal slot receiver:
“I think a slot, especially with what we want to do, has to have some good instincts, and really you want a smart player that you can call choice routes with and it takes smart players to do that. The guys that I’ve been around that have been capable of doing that were like Cooper Kupp was really good at that, Mohamed Sanu was really good at that.”
By “good instincts” what LaFleur means is someone who knows when to sit down in the zone when crossing the middle of the field and someone who can run a variety of routes based on what the coverage is giving them.
Who else could do that better than Davante Adams?
No, Adams isn’t the prototypical slot receiver, but he is a great receiver and a master of his craft, and in Matt LaFleur’s offense that will do the trick.
So while there may have been many questioning who would fill that role this season without a Randall Cobb like player, I would anticipate seeing Adams take plenty of snaps this season from the slot and as always, being very productive.