Packers testing Jared Abbrederis' versatility
GREEN BAY - When the Green Bay Packers (finally) began their exhibition season Friday against Cleveland at Lambeau Field, where the grass was immaculate and the paint did not congeal, two players hovered around the goal line to return the opening kickoff: Jared Abbrederis and Micah Hyde.
The ball was kicked to the right, toward Abbrederis, and the wiry receiver caught it three yards deep in the end zone and brought it out to the 15-yard line.
It was the beginning of a busy day for Abbrederis, whose heavy involvement on offense and special teams suggested the coaches are taking a long look at their third-year receiver. For the first time in his career, Abbrederis is healthy during training camp, which means he can properly audition for Mike McCarthy. And on Friday against the Browns, Abbrederis was asked to line up all over the field.
By the time the game ended, with the Packers edging out a 17-11 victory, Abbrederis had returned 60 percent of the kickoffs, 100 percent of the punts and caught two passes for 23 yards. Only tight ends Kennard Backman and Justin Perillo finished with more receiving yardage.
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Abbrederis' offensive assignments were versatile as well, with receivers coach Luke Getsy deploying him in the slot and on the outside.
Perhaps his best play came when he lined up as the only receiver to the right of the formation. Quarterback Joe Callahan, starting in place of Aaron Rodgers (rest) and Brett Hundley (ankle), fired a quick pass to Abbrederis along the sideline. He made a defender miss and scampered up the sideline for a first down.
He also had a 12-yard grab late in the second quarter that was part of an impressive 12-play, 80-yard drive culminating with a touchdown pass from Callahan to tailback John Crockett.
Abbrederis added a punctuation on special teams as well. After Browns quarterback Cody Kessler was sacked in the end zone for a safety — one of three safeties in the game — Abbrederis caught the ensuing free kick and displayed the elusiveness that endeared him to Wisconsin fans during a stellar collegiate career.
He juked and danced his way along the left sideline, cutting inside and outside and back. He added a spin move as he approached midfield and was finally tackled after a 34-yard return.
The sideline erupted.