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Young depth stepping up for Packers

Posted Jan 12, 2016

WR Jared Abbrederis, CB LaDarius Gunter make impact in playoff debuts

GREEN BAY – The Packers are not the healthiest of postseason teams, which may force them to be one of the deepest in order to make a deep run.

Second-year receiver Jared Abbrederis and undrafted rookie cornerback LaDarius Gunter provided that young depth in last week’s wild-card win, and they could be needed for even bigger roles on Saturday in Arizona.

Mike McCarthy had no update Tuesday on receiver Davante Adams (knee) or cornerbacks Sam Shields (concussion) and Quinten Rollins (quad), but if any or all are sidelined, Abbrederis and Gunter will likely see plenty of action.

“It’s just like every other week,” Abbrederis said. “You prepare like you’re going to play. It’s how it is. You have to be ready.”

In Washington, Abbrederis was in the game early but bobbled and dropped a slip-screen pass to the left late in the first quarter. Unlike two weeks prior in Arizona, though, when he dove and couldn’t come up with Aaron Rodgers’ pass on a deep crossing route, he got a chance to atone for the miscue.

Two plays after Adams exited the game in the third quarter, Abbrederis had his number called on another slip-screen to the left, and he picked up nine yards. Later in the second half, he put a quick shake on the defender and was wide open on a slant for a two-point conversion.

He added another catch for five yards, coming up just short of a first down, giving him his third game this season with multiple receptions. Abbrederis had cracked the offensive stat sheet just once through the first 11 games, but now he’s made at least one catch in four of the last six contests.

The Wisconsin native and fan favorite doesn’t want to start another game with a drop, of course, but proving he could bounce back from it bodes well if he’s needed full-time against the Cardinals.

“You’re going to have some of those,” Abbrederis said. “Obviously you don’t want them, but when they happen, you just have to be able to have a short memory, forget about it and move on. It’s how it is. Just try to forget about it and go make something happen. Make up for it.”

Gunter had played even less from scrimmage than Abbrederis in the regular season, far less in fact, when he entered in place of Rollins in the dime defense.

Mostly a special teamer during the eight regular-season games he was active, Gunter had just 10 defensive snaps under his belt, and only two since Week 4.

Suddenly, the undrafted Miami product was thrown in the fire, lined up at corner in the second half of a postseason game, but he looked like he belonged. On a third-and-10 crossing route by receiver Pierre Garcon midway through the fourth quarter, he broke up the pass in textbook fashion. Nick Perry’s fourth-down sack on the next play gave the ball back to the Packers.

“In the back of my mind, it was the playoffs, but at the same time, football is football,” Gunter said, unfazed by having to guard a veteran as accomplished as Garcon. “He puts on his clothes just like I put on mine.”

McCarthy said Gunter shows that kind of “tenacity” and “aggressiveness” every day in practice, and he simply transferred it to the game.

“That’s all you can ask,” fellow defensive back Micah Hyde said. “I told him in walk-through today that I was proud of him. Especially as a rookie, first postseason game, to go out there and make some plays, when you had no idea you were going to go in, that’s big. That’s big-time. I think that’s good for his psyche.”

It’s good for the Packers’ mojo, too. The defense would love to have Shields and Rollins both ready and able against Arizona’s vaunted receiving corps on Saturday night, but if not, Gunter promises to be prepared.

“Coaches always tell me to be ready because I can be thrown in at any time,” he said. “These past couple weeks I’ve been on high alert, waiting to get in.”

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