GREEN BAY – In no way does it feel like it’s been this long, but life admittedly can move pretty fast when a player busts into the NFL at barely 20 years old.
Randall Cobb and Davante Adams can relate in that way. The two Packers receivers each found instant success at the next level after declaring early for the NFL Draft.
Adams remembers the first encounter he had with Cobb back in 2014. At the time, Adams thought he was addressing a veteran who was “10 years in” based upon how Cobb carried himself. The reality? Cobb was a fourth-year pro and still three months shy of his 24th birthday.
Only 25 years old but entering Year 5 himself, Adams catches similar glances these days from the likes of Geronimo Allison and the other young receivers on the Packers’ roster.
“It’s funny, because when G-Mo came in he said the same thing about me,” Adams recalled Tuesday after the first public practice of the Packers’ organized team activities. “He felt like I was an old guy. And I still don’t feel like an old guy now. So now, when they come in, I let them know – I’m right there with you. I’m not that old just yet.”
Far from it, actually. It just so happens Cobb, now 27, and Adams are the faces of one of the league’s youngest receiving corps. The two Pro Bowlers account for 155 of the 209 combined regular-season games played (74.1 percent) among the Packers’ 11 receivers.
Leadership comes naturally to both, but there is a slightly different dynamic this summer with trusted veteran Jordy Nelson now a member of the Oakland Raiders.
Nelson’s departure puts more responsibility on the plate of the two returning veterans, as the Packers look to develop another target for MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers from a promising, but young, stable of receivers that includes three rookie draft picks.
Adams, coming off his first career Pro Bowl appearance, is eager to accept a leadership role in the offense. After all, it’s what he signed up for when agreeing to a contract extension with Green Bay back in December.
Adams has a unique perspective on how to approach the league. After making his way into the starting lineup as a rookie in 2014, Adams weathered a turbulent, injury-riddled sophomore campaign before his breakthrough season in 2016.
“I’m quick to use that,” Adams said. “Let them know – especially in tough times – that I’ve been where you are right now times a million worse. I’ve had a lot to deal with from outside noise, inside the locker room. In here, people are supportive but people kind of look at you and say ‘when are you going to step up?’ So you kind of relate to them and give them the story of how you came along and they see where you’re at now. Like you said, it gives you a little more credibility.”
A former second-round pick out of Fresno State, Adams has shaken off the early setbacks to become one of the NFL’s top young receivers. He has 149 receptions for 1,882 yards and a league-high 22 touchdown catches over the past two seasons.
Adams sat out of Tuesday’s organized team activities with a hamstring injury, but stressed it’s just precautionary. If anyone needed further proof, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound receiver leap-frogged one of the officials at practice with ease.
“That’s just to show people who see me standing on the sideline, I don’t want them getting scared,” said Adams, smiling. “If I’m jumping over people things are going to be OK.”
Like Adams, Cobb can’t believe how quickly his first seven NFL seasons have flown by. It seems like just yesterday Cobb was the second-round pick known for being the first player born in the 1990s to be drafted into NFL in 2011.
A full participant in Tuesday's OTAs, Cobb spent portions of practice assisting new receivers coach David Raih with the Packers’ young receivers, and rookie draft picks J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown.
Cobb doesn’t feel his job description changes at all without Nelson in the receivers room. It’s been his job to lead since he jumped onto the scene with 954 receiving yards in 2012.
“I’m going to continue doing the things that I was doing when Jordy was here – it’s leading by example,” Cobb said. “It’s doing what you know you’re supposed to be doing, being the teammate that you know you can be, and just being able to fill in and answer questions whenever guys have them and being able to show them techniques and how we do things to help get you open on the field.”
The Packers are excited about what lies in store for the offense in 2018 with Rodgers recovered from his collarbone injury, Joe Philbin returning as offensive coordinator and the addition of five-time Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham.
Yet, the backbone of the Packers’ offense always has been its receivers. While Cobb now has seven seasons under his belt, both Raih and Adams are confident the accomplished veteran still has his best football ahead of him.
“He’s a young 27, definitely is,” said Adams of Cobb. “He’s an incredible athlete. He’s still got the burners and he has a lot to offer for the young guys, as well. You go out there and you watch how he gets down on the field, he’s consistent and he’s one of the best, one of the hardest-working guys in the game and in practice and things like that. It makes it easy for the young guys to pick up on that.”