How Montravius Adams went from bust to 'most improved' on Packers' D

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Whatever your evaluation was of Montravius Adams after his rookie season with the Green Bay Packers, it couldn’t have been worse than Mike Pettine’s.

“When I first got here and met him in the spring, my opinion wasn’t real high,” said Pettine, who was hired as defensive coordinator in 2018. “And he knows that.”

Ask Pettine the same question now, and it’s a different story.

“If I had to vote somebody or say who’s most improved from a year ago, it would be Montravius,” Pettine said this week. “There would be a couple other guys in the discussion. But it’s been pretty obvious with him.”

Sure, you could say Pettine is just trying to pump up a player whom he now knows he’ll need after general manager Brian Gutekunst cut Mike Daniels on the eve of training camp. But perhaps the Packers dumped Daniels in part because of what they think they have in Adams.

Either way, it appears the former third-round pick (No. 93 overall in the 2017 draft) will have a much bigger role on the defensive line this year after playing just 66 snaps as a rookie and 212 last season.

Pettine’s comments Monday put the spotlight squarely on Adams early in camp and sent reporters flocking to his locker after Tuesday’s practice.

While Adams talked to perhaps the biggest group of media that has surrounded him since he arrived in Green Bay, fellow defensive lineman Kenny Clark sat alone in the next locker and marveled at his teammate’s transformation from potential draft bust to starter.

“When he first came here, he wasn’t able to really get a grasp of everything,” Clark said.

“A lot of that was just the coaches and us constantly telling him he has the potential to be whatever he wants to be as long as he put in the work and he does what he has to do,” Clark added. “The coaches, especially, Jerry (Montgomery, the defensive line coach), they stayed on him and we all just kept trying to push him. His second year, we got a lot closer and we’d always go in the weight room and work out together. He’s been really trying to do everything the right way, and he just wanted to make sure he didn’t leave any stone unturned.”

Although no one used the L-word, there were implications that Adams was lazy when he got to the NFL. A foot injury in his first training camp didn't help, either.

Adams’ production jumped from five tackles and no sacks in seven games as a rookie to 26 tackles and 1.5 sacks while playing in all 16 games last season.

This offseason, Montgomery said: “He’s taken the right steps. The guy came back in tremendous shape. He looks a lot different body-wise than he did a year ago. Like, he understands now this is how he provides for his family and 'I need to do all that I can to be the best player I can be.' He’s done that.”

When asked whether his work ethic was an issue, Adams said: “I could say that, because I wouldn’t say that I was in the shape that I was in now.”

In about the 137th story about a player who returned in better shape for this season, Adams said he’s now under 300 pounds after playing last season at 315.

“For me, it made me mad that I was not able to help the team,” Adams said. “So I kind of fueled stuff with anger. I don’t know, I just tried to prove to myself that I am who I am.”

So far in camp, he has lined up with the starters in the base defensive line along with Clark and Dean Lowry up front.

“By the end of last year, I mean he was playing some quality minutes and made some plays -- something I would not have predicted that just coming out of training camp,” Pettine said. “And then he’s a guy we’re going to depend on. He’s already shown flashes of it. With his weight down, he just made a play in practice [last week] 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.”