Taking long look at Jared Abbrederis
The Green Bay Packers gave Jared Abbrederis every chance to make their 53-man roster Thursday night.
It's hard to conclude anything else after the second-year pro entered the team's preseason finale against New Orleans on the offense's second series of the game, played almost every snap thereafter and also was the returner on all six Saints punts.
So who knows what general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy are thinking at this point?
Did Abbrederis' performance – he had a quiet night – matter? If making an eye-catching play was important, it would be hard to keep him. He caught only one pass, a third-down checkdown for six yards that was short of the first down. He averaged 11.7 yards on three punt returns.
But then, Thompson and McCarthy would have been be asking a lot for Abbrederis to have a big performance after all the football he missed the last 13 months. He lost his entire rookie season to a torn ACL in the first week of training camp and then this year sustained a concussion on the first day of camp that sidelined him until this week. He has to be rusty.
So what were Thompson and McCarthy looking for? Did they just want to see how well Abbrederis ran and got in and out of breaks, and that he could get through the game healthy? If that was it, then maybe production didn't matter, and they think enough his talent to keep him on the final 53.
On the other hand, if their plan was to cut and re-sign him to their practice squad, I'm not sure why it was so important to play him for almost the entire game Thursday night. That makes you think the final 53 is a strong possibility.
Good luck gleaning anything from what McCarthy said after the game.
"No. 1, just getting (Abbrederis) some opportunities," McCarthy said. "His availability — he practiced the first practice (of camp) and was able to practice twice this week. You create a 90-man roster, you go down to 75 and you try to get as much information on each and every player. It's no different with Jared."
If the plan was to put Abbrederis on the 53 as long he came out of the game OK, that strikes me as a big risk. Abbrederis' injury history, especially of head injuries that include the recent concussion that sidelined him a month, has to be a big concern. This was the second concussion of his career he has acknowledged, but he also reportedly had two other head injuries in his college career at Wisconsin. Missing the last month because of a concussion is on the long side of being sidelined with that injury as well.
If the Packers keep Abbrederis on their 53, that means exposing another player they like to the waiver wire. Then if Abbrederis gets hurt during the season, which his recent history suggests is a high risk, the Packers will have lost him and maybe the guy cut to make room. But maybe that doesn't matter to McCarthy and Thompson.
Abbrederis' injury history also substantially lowers the risk that anyone else will claim him if cut. What are the chances another NFL team would use a spot on its 53-man roster for a player with his injury history who has played in only one preseason game in his two years in the league, and had only one catch for six yards in that game? Very slim.
If I were the Packers, I'd want to see him get through a preseason healthy before devoting a spot on the 53. Or at least see him on the practice squad for several weeks. But it looks like Thompson and McCarthy see it differently.
Based only on this preseason only, it's hard to see how they could keep Abbrederis over Myles White as the No. 5 receiver. White on Thursday night had four receptions for 46 yards and two touchdowns, which for the preseason gives him a team-leading 16 receptions, though for only a 9.8-yard average. He showed some speed when he turned a short crossing pattern into a 36-yard gain.
"Myles White has been right in the middle of everything," McCarthy said after the game. "Every time we've challenged him, whether it's in the weight room he's responded, whether it's special teams he's responded. I haven't watched the tape yet, but it looks like he's put together two good games (back to back)."
Watching Abbrederis closely, on a play or two early in the game he appeared open but didn't get the ball. His catch was on a checkdown short of the first down, with the defense playing the sticks. He had three other targets that were incomplete.
On one incompletion, cornerback Brian Dixon didn't bite on a double move and cut off Abbrederis going up the sideline. On another, a slant, cornerback Kyle Wilson had tight coverage, jumped the route and broke up the pass. On the third, quarterback Brett Hundley, who had another impressive night, threw it in the dirt.
But Thompson and McCarthy had to know that Abbrederis probably wouldn't be sharp. So do they think Abbrederis is clearly more talented than White? And if so, will they go with him despite the small body of work? Or, with Jordy Nelson out for the season, will they keep both on the 53 (giving them six receivers total) and go lighter somewhere else? Who knows?
The prudent call still looks to me like keeping White on the 53, and signing Abbrederis and maybe Larry Pinkard to the practice squad, depending on the severity of Pinkard's shoulder injury from the game. It's safe because it's hard to see another team claiming Abbrederis for its 53 with his injury history.
All we know for sure is that Abbrederis finally made it to, and through, a game. He didn't produce much, but he took some hits and appeared fine. Now Thompson and McCarthy will give their answer. It looks like they're leaning toward keeping him. We'll find out when cuts are due by 3 p.m. Saturday.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.