GREEN BAY – For all the varied and valuable contributions the Packers have gotten on offense through the first half of the season, there's no question who their top two playmakers are:
Yet over the first eight games, the team's best receiver and running back have been on the field together for just 3½ of them – through halftime of Week 2, and then Weeks 6 and 9.
That's it. Otherwise, the Packers have been playing without either Adams (hamstring) or Jones (calf) while they worked their way back from injuries, and they've still ranked seventh in the league in yards and third in points.
That speaks volumes about the play of QB Aaron Rodgers, the team's depth, and the coaches' plans, but it also makes one wonder about the possibilities if the second half of 2020 can feature the duo playing together more regularly.
"Continuity in general makes everybody feel a little bit more comfortable," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "Certainly, you want all your weapons at your disposal, and those are two explosive guys."
Despite each missing two games, Adams (53 catches, 675 yards, eight TDs) and Jones (90 carries, 447 yards, five TDs) are easily the offense's most productive players, and together they challenge a defense the way no other pair of Packers does.
Adams described it primarily as a decision surrounding how opponents want to employ their safeties. Keeping them both back helps prevent the big pass play over the top, but the best way to contain Jones is for a safety to provide run support in the box or cover him if he shifts to line up as a receiver.
It's not a simple choice.
"You go Cover-2, it kind of slims down the options for us (as receivers)," Adams said. "But on the flip side of that, it just allows for better running lanes, and if you do that with '33' out there, you're going to be in trouble.
"So I'd say we kind of balance each other out and keep these defenses honest."
The only time Adams and Jones have been on the field together and the offense didn't click was at Tampa Bay. Last week at San Francisco, both played for just the second time since Week 2, and the spark to the offense was evident on the game's first possession.
Jones got the ball on the first four plays – two rushes, two receptions – and gained a healthy 37 yards.
"Jonesey is such a different type of back," Rodgers said. "His slashing style, he just doesn't take a lot of squared up shots. He does a nice job with bouncing off things. He's just very elusive with the ball in his hands."
Two snaps later, Rodgers went up top to Adams, who had single coverage down the sideline and made a great adjustment to haul in a 36-yard TD.
"You have to really have a plan for him," Rodgers said of Adams. "You can't just expect to go put a guy on him one-on-one and that guy is going to have success all day. It just hasn't happened yet. He's such a talented guy."
Individually, big games from the two have come both with and without the other one playing, but mostly without. Adams posted double-digit catches and 150-plus yards when Jones played in Weeks 1 and 9, and when he didn't in Week 7. Meanwhile, Jones had his 236 yards from scrimmage in Week 2 (when Adams exited at halftime) and 111 yards from scrimmage in Week 4 with Adams out.
So it's possible the monster games will become more rare with both healthy, but neither is going to complain.
"I don't need to catch 15 balls," Adams said. "I enjoy and love it, but at the end of the day … as long as we win the game that's all that matters to us."
It's not just getting Adams and Jones on the field together on a weekly basis that has the Packers excited, though.
They're also on the verge of getting back All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, who has missed three games with a chest injury, and No. 2 receiver Allen Lazard, who's been out five games following core muscle surgery.
Lazard posted 254 yards and two touchdowns in just three games before going down while Bakhtiari entered 2020 coming off four straight All-Pro selections (first team once, second team three times).
Combine all that with No. 2 running back Jamaal Williams also returning after missing one game due to being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, plus jet-motion/gadget weapon Tyler Ervin back for the last two games after missing two to injury – which LaFleur noted "left a little bit of a void" and made it "harder to game plan" – and the optimism the offense can reach another level is warranted.
"We are headed in the right direction," Jones said.
If there's been any silver lining to the injury situation, it's that the key players got hurt early in the season rather than later. The experience gained by others in their stead can make them stronger role players while the unit is getting back to full strength at the right time.
"I know there's some guys on defense hoping to get back as well," Rodgers said. "We've kind of weathered some spots in our schedule without a lot of guys.
"As opposed to other years when we're trying to get young guys maybe up to speed and get them going by the end of the year, maybe this is the year we're getting our guys back at important times and getting them back in the fold for the stretch run. Hopefully that's the case starting this week."