At 28 years old, Adams might be the best WR in the NFL. He’s on pace to catch 112 passes for 1,355 yards and 16 touchdowns, and the one thing you notice time after time is his rare ability to create separation off the line of scrimmage.
So when I had the recent opportunity to speak to former All-Pro receiver Chad Johnson, I knew I had to ask him about many things — including Adams’ best trait.
Johnson, 42, has been “unofficially” retired for years now (he still hasn’t filed his papers), but during his time, he too was one of the game’s best receivers, a man who specialized in beating man-to-man coverage at the line of scrimmage.
And when I asked him who are some of the best at that in today’s game, I wasn’t at all surprised at what he said.
“Davante Adams and Keenan Allen,” said Johnson, who spoke to Yahoo Sports on behalf of Madden. “You could probably blindfold them, put somebody in front of them and say the route and they’d still probably be able to get open without seeing the individual in the alignment they’re playing.”
With the 11-3 Packers set to host the 10-4 Tennessee Titans in a spotlight cross-conference matchup, I thought it would be great to have Johnson on this week’s edition of the original Yahoo Sports web series “Check the Tape,” produced by Ron Schiltz and the Yahoo Sports video team. I had Johnson walk me through a few of Adams’ most notable releases off the line of scrimmage this year and why they’re so effective.
Be sure to check out the rest of my interview with Johnson, who also spoke about his legacy (hint: he insists he’s not stressing about the Hall of Fame battle that likely awaits him) and what his all-time list of great receivers look like (another hint: the great Jerry Rice is No. 3).
But all things concerned, Johnson seems secure in what he accomplished during his 11-year career. Especially since some of the things he was known for — including his over-the-top celebrations — have lived on.
In fact, with the NFL’s recent decision to relax the rules on celebrations, he smiles every time he sees players break out a choreographed dance or celebrate after a touchdown. Johnson and Terrell Owens drew attention to themselves, yes, and some people did not understand or appreciate that. But they also marketed themselves, something younger receivers — including Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster — have seemingly carried on.
“All of them, all of them, especially the young ones — and those that are veterans now in the game, they always mention it,” Johnson said with a smile. “They understood it, with me being a pioneer in a sense and not really knowing what I was doing, but there was a method to my madness anyway.”
But really, the thing Johnson is most proud of is what he put on tape over the course of 166 career games.
“Talking to Davante and Keenan, Calvin Ridley, Justin Jefferson, Jarvis [Landry], Odell [Beckham Jr.], all these dudes use the footage to study the route-running and ability to get in and out of breaks and create separation,” Johnson said. “That appreciation for the art of what I just called being able to run routes has been really dope.”
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