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FOXBORO -- We know why Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have dominated the headlines this week. It's a rare matchup between two of the game's best, about to go throw-for-throw.
But they're never on the field simultaneously.
The best true one-on-one back-and-forth of Sunday night's game might instead be what will be happening outside the numbers when Rodgers is on the field, eyeing his No. 1 receiver Davante Adams, with Stephon Gilmore in close proximity.
Adams and Gilmore can't be deemed two of the game's all-time best the way their quarterbacks can, but they are certainly two of the hottest at their respective positions at the moment.
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Adams is coming off of a three-game stretch in which he's posted 140, 132 and 133 yards. Gilmore, meanwhile, has not allowed more than two catches in a game since Week 2. In that time, he's allowing a quarterback rating of 55.7, which is the fourth-best among all corners.
There's no guarantee that Gilmore will shadow Adams, but if he does -- after weeks of checking players like Kelvin Benjamin, a banged-up Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins -- Adams will likely be Gilmore's toughest test of the season.
"They have a lot of weapons," Bill Belichick said this week. "He's a big one. Again, a vertical receiver, does a great job down the field, catch-and-run player, strong runner, hard to tackle. It’s hard to play off him, it's hard to play up on him. He does a very good job of beating man coverage with his quickness and route technique."
When I stopped Gilmore to talk about the potential matchup with Adams, he acknowledged that Adams may not be the biggest (6-1, 215), but he has good size. He may not be the fastest (he ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at the combine in 2014), but he's a very good athlete.
Plus, Gilmore said, "he has Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback."
A well-rounded player with a strong-armed and accurate passer can be dangerous, Gilmore explained. Particularly when Adams' "release game," as Gilmore put it, is as strong as it is.
While some receivers want to sprint off the line of scrimmage to get up on the toes of their defenders and then make their move, Adams has a change-of-pace element to his release that Gilmore said makes him a challenge.
Man-to-man coverage. Davante Adams gets an easy release vs. Sensabaugh and Burnett takes a bad angle to the ball causing him to be flat footed. 27-yard gain on the quick slant pic.twitter.com/2UbgAoRf5N— Dorkewicz 🇰🇷🇯🇵🇵🇱 (@Dorkewicz) August 18, 2018
Davante Adams has the quickest first step and release off the line of scrimmage out of any receiver in the NFL.— Joe Kipp (@joepkipp) June 20, 2018
And yes, that means everyone. Julio, AB, OBJ, Nuk Hopkins..
Touchdown on a slant route here against the Lions in 2016. Just wait on it. #Packers pic.twitter.com/W4Cyk6zhNt
For Adams, someone who didn't start to play football until his junior year of high school, it's easy to dip into his basketball background as he tries to create space for himself as a receiver. He'll set up corners with a hesitation hop at the line -- treating it almost like the setup for a crossover -- then fake one way and burst outside or inside depending on the route and the leverage he wants.
Just ask Malcolm Butler, who did well to catch up to Adams here, but still allowed Adams to get the outside release he was looking for.
Here's the highlight of the night. Davante Adams' release off the line of scrimmage might be 2nd to none. Also shows an uncanny ability to track the ball out of the air on this play.— Joe Kipp (@joepkipp) August 10, 2018
And of course, gotta love the peace sign after it's over. Green Bay has their No. 1. #Packers pic.twitter.com/FXkS0PSQIq
Adams told reporters this week that, "I don't feel like anyone can guard me right now."
Asked if he wanted to be the one tasked with guarding Adams on Sunday, Gilmore smiled. "We'll see," he said.
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