For the last two years I’ve been making a list of 5 guys that have to be good. This kind of list isn’t obvious. You’re not going to find Aaron Rodgers on this list. These are guys that you might not think of right away regarding the overall success of the Packers.
That’s the thing, though. Aaron Rodgers is going to play well. Clay Matthews, should he stay healthy is going to play well. Eddie Lacy’s going to be good and so is the offensive line. The players that we know are good are more than likely going to play well.
It’s the players that are “in the margins” that can make the difference between another 11 or 12 win team with a playoff “run” and a 13 or 14 win team and the 14th World Championship in Packers history.
Jared Abbrederis almost assuredly won’t start this season. With the success of Micah Hyde returning punts it would appear that he might not be able to contribute a lot there either. It’s more than likely, however, that Abbrederis will need to succeed at some point for the Packers.
The obvious place for “Abby” is the second slot position in 4 wide sets that was unsuccessfully operated by Jarrett Boykin a year ago and eventually became Andrew Quarless (who doesn’t offer very much either). If Jared Abbrederis is a serviceable starting caliber slot receiver he’ll be virtually uncoverable by the oppositions 4th best corner. With Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and the rising Davante Adams on the squad, Abbrederis should be able to run free.
Where things get more interesting is in the no huddle. Randall Cobb is a very fun option out of the backfield but he’s really the only viable option out of the slot on the team. Sure, Jordy Nelson is an effective receiver from the inside (he covered for Cobb in 2013) but the options to replace him outside are unproven and he’s at his most valuable to the team beating the opposition’s #1 corner on the perimeter.
As I discussed in this episode of From the Benches, if Abbrederis is good at his job it allows them to run 4 WR/1TE sets or 4 WR/1 RB sets where Cobb is free to rotate from the slot to the backfield and create matchups with linebackers and safeties that can’t cover him. If defenses have to respect Abbrederis as an option from the inside, they can’t just stare at Cobb when he’s in the backfield because they’re already dealing with Adams and Nelson.
The final reason that Jared Abberderis needs to be good is perhaps the most obvious one, depth. I think that if anything bad happened to Davante Adams or Jordy Nelson for an extended period of time Jeff Janis would step in to the outside position and with his athletic ability it’s reasonable that Aaron Rodgers could make him a star. Janis is the anti-Boykin. While Boykin possessed a quick understanding of the playbook and veteran-like savvy he was athletically limited. There is nothing limiting about what Janis can do athletically.
What happens if Cobb goes down (and that has happened before) is another story. As I said, in 2013 the Packers solved the issue by using their best receiver, Jordy Nelson, inside quite a bit. Jarrett Boykin was successful on the outside that season and James Jones was on the squad. As optimistic as I am about Janis, it’s not as much if you’re not utilizing Nelson’s talents to the fullest by playing him in the slot. It’s not as big of a deal to plug Janis in for Adams or Nelson for a game or 3. Moving Nelson inside and replacing him with Janis is weakening two positions, not one.
That’s where Abby comes in. If Abbrederis is a good football player and Cobb goes down, he slides in and the offense loses a step, but not much more than that. Any offense that has Aaron Rodgers and this offensive line is going to be a successful one. Whether it’s spot punt return duty, a position as the 4th WR or stepping in because of injury, Jared Abbrederis has to be good.