Adams is lighter, faster, stronger and ready to assume the starting role that seemed far-fetched not long ago.
When Mike Pettine first met defensive lineman Montravius Adams last spring, he wasn’t impressed. Pettine had just taken the job as Packers defensive coordinator and Adams, a 2017 third-round pick, was coming off a rookie season in which he registered only two tackles in seven games played.
He struggled to produce consistently, stringing together a maximum of two impressive plays when Pettine wanted streaks of five or more. He weighed too much and wasn’t fast enough. He tried playing solely off athleticism but quickly learned that wouldn’t fly in the NFL like it sometimes did at Auburn.
Pettine set his expectations low. So low that he didn’t foresee Adams playing quality snaps at any point during the 2018 season.
“My opinion wasn’t real high,” Pettine said Monday. “And he knows that.”
Adams also knew he had the talent to hang in the NFL. The Packers picked him in the third round for a reason after he anchored Auburn’s defensive line and earned second-team All-American honors as a senior.
So Adams used Pettine’s critique as fuel to re-discover what got him here.
“For me, it was great,” Adams said of Pettine not liking him. ” … With him saying that it was like, ‘I am going to prove to him that I am who I think I am and not who anybody else thinks.’
“It was just a mutual feeling that you understand that maybe he doesn’t think I’m good, but I do and I think I can get there.”
A year and change after Adams’ underwhelming first impression, Pettine says he’s the defense’s most improved player. After finishing the 2018 season strong, dropping over 15 pounds this offseason and getting first-team reps at three-technique this training camp with defensive lineman Mike Daniels gone, Adams is showing others what he believed he was capable of all along.
“We as the scouting staff kind of had the luxury of knowing ‘Mont’ from his college days, so we kind of knew it was going to take a minute for him to get up to speed,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said Tuesday.
“So we kind of probably saw this path a little bit sooner and there was some patience involved. But he has, over the last year, going back to last season, taken advantage of the opportunity he’s been given. And when he’s been out there, he’s made plays.”
To make those strides in the past year, though, Adams first had to slim down.
His 20 tackles, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 16 games last season were a respectable starting point. He finished the year with a stretch of impressive snaps Pettine admitted he never expected after last year’s training camp.
But Adams still felt too heavy and slow after playing last season around 315 pounds. Even if he ate healthy, Adams said, his natural weight lied between 310-320 pounds. He wanted to change something besides his diet to build endurance that would allow him to play every down if need be.
Adams emphasized the desire to cut weight was his own, not ordered from Pettine or defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery.
Back in his home state of Georgia this summer Adams ran, ran and ran some more. The runs he recounts with a smile on his face (now that they’re over) were 200-yard sprints he had to finish in 40 seconds, some in 36 seconds. Adams ran 10 such sprints one day, with a break of about 40 seconds in between each.
“For me, that’s a good little distance,” Adams said with a big grin, adding he’d never done anything like it. “It’s all about pushing it and pushing and pushing. At the end of the day, I feel like I can overcome any obstacle.”
Now, Adams weighs around 298 pounds.
He’s lighter, faster and stronger, ready to assume the starting role that seemed far-fetched not long ago.
“With his weight down, he just made a play in practice yesterday where he penetrated and put his foot in the ground, and went and chased the ball carrier down. You wouldn’t have seen that from him a year ago,” Pettine said.
“I just think the confidence at the end of last season he got, getting out there and playing – ‘Hey, I can do this’ – I think propelled him into the offseason to show back up in April ready to go and he’s been impressive since he came back.”
Adams said he’s spent significant time studying film with fellow defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster at Lancaster’s house to improve his knowledge of the playbook, which a lack of held him back the last two years.
Lancaster has seen Adams’ devotion to improvement firsthand over the last year since signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2018.
“Oh, I mean leaps and bounds,” Lancaster said of Adams’ strides. “Even just looking at him in OTAs, I was like, ‘Wow, ‘Mont’ definitely has improved.’ You could tell right away he’s coming off the ball incredibly, a lot faster, a lot stronger. He’s not as heavy, but he seems more twitchy.
“I think he’s looking phenomenal and I think Pettine’s right. Mont has improved and I think he feels that sense of urgency as well, and that’s only gonna make the room better for everybody else.”
According to Football Outsiders, Adams played 212 defensive snaps last season, fifth-most on the defensive line behind Kenny Clark (721), Dean Lowry (698), Daniels (419) and Lancaster (271). In a limited sample size, he provided a glimpse at what’s to come in 2019.
The marriage of athleticism and football intellect he’s been striving for since he entered the league has finally materialized. Now, with likely triple the number of snaps, Adams has a chance to prove he belongs after all.
“We already knew he had the ability. His get-off is better than all of ours,” Clark said. “He’s quick off the ball. He’s strong, country strong. It’s crazy. So we just wanted him to get that mental part down and take the offseason serious, come back in shape and he did all those things.
“I’m just excited to see how he does this year.”