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Preseason Star Jeff Janis Once Again Finding His August Niche

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Preseason Star Jeff Janis Once Again Finding His August Niche

You can ask any fan, any film junkie or even any one of the coaches in the Green Bay Packers' organization: the biggest knock on Jeff Janis was his route running.

It's a big part of his game that had yet to mold into something that truly helped Janis get the most out of his few regular season reps. To this day, he has yet to catch more than 11 passes in a season during his three-year career.

Entering year four, there's hope that can change. And so far, he's off to a good start this preseason.

"Just being more patient and taking some tips from the guys in the room," Janis said on Sunday. "And Luke [Getsy] is getting on us a lot about our route running and preaching different things. I'm just taking things from the room and applying them out on the field."

Through the Packers' first two preseason games, Janis has four catches on six targets for 83 yards and a touchdown. He's averaged 20.7 yards per reception, similar to his sophomore season at Saginaw Valley State in which he finished averaging a personal collegiate-best 20.2 average per catch. 

He scored 45 receiving touchdowns and three rushing during his final three seasons as a Cardinal. 

Despite these impressive numbers, a 4.42 40-yard dash and a sub-4.00 20-yard shuttle time, Janis didn't crack any of the first three rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft. Not even the first five. Six. 

It took until the 236th overall pick in the seventh round for him to crash-land in Green Bay. He's been trying to master his position ever since, whether it be learning to track a deep ball in the air or finding consistency with his limited opportunities. 

Up to now, he's been a preseason star on offense and an ace on special teams for the Packers.

"It has a lot to do with it being the preseason, everybody's fighting for a job. So every ball that comes your way, you want to make a play on it. Same thing goes for special teams, you just want to go out there and make a play.

"Brett [Hundley] and Aaron [Rodgers], they both throw different styles of deep balls. Just getting reps with them in practice is big, and we do some deep ball drills, so those are showing up too."

Janis first showed off his new-and-improved route running skills last week against the Eagles. He beat Eagles cornerback C.J. Smith by beautifully selling a break inside before re-aligning his route down the right sideline and catching a 20-yard touchdown pass from Hundley.

Janis celebrating his first touchdown of the preseason with a Lambeau Leap against the Eagles. (The Post-Crescent/USA TODAY Sports)

A week later in Washington, Hundley and Janis connected for two of Janis' three catches and 46 of his 63 total yards on the night, providing both of the developmental assets and their positional coaches some positive film to fawn over.

"Not pre-determining what you're going to do off the line is something that I've been trying to work on—not just taking off and running like a speed-type of thing. Just reading what the defensive back is doing and going off of that.

"It can be very tough. There's some guys that are naturally really good at it and there's some guys, like myself, that may need to work on it a little more."

Janis is having undoubtedly his best preseason since that year of 2015 in which he caught three touchdowns through four preseason games, as well as tallied 10 receptions for 149 yards.

If it wasn't evidenced already by his sky-high yards-per-reception average, both in college and in the NFL, Janis is a deep threat when the opportunity is there and when he crisply executes his route timing.

His big game against the Redskins came just over a year removed from fracturing bones in his right hand during training camp that required him to miss the entire preseason and enter the regular season sporting a club. At that point, his odds of making the roster hinged on him still proving to be an impact performer on special teams despite the physical limitations.

Now, at full health, Janis is hoping to truly rebound from his 2015 season that culminated in a seven-catch, 145-yard night in the NFC divisional playoff against the Cardinals. His two touchdowns scored in Arizona that night, including the 41-yard game-tying Hail Mary that sent the contest into overtime.

Janis' worth doesn't rest on that game, however. He controls his own destiny from now until the end of his four-year contract, which runs through this upcoming season. Then, it's truly decision time.

You can currently consider Janis part of the Packers' nine-man battle at wide receiver (outside of the obvious top-three, of course), but it's no secret that he holds the edge due to his innate ability to perform as the team's best punt coverage gunner.

Another non-secret is the fact that if he continues bringing a spark of life to the Packers' offense during the remaining two preseason games, his multifaceted arsenal would be more than enough to once again solidify him a spot on the 53-man roster come September.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (26) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Janis looks different in his routes this year. Forget "Mr. August." He has developed his game, his athleticism is taking over...

...and he is a lock for this roster.

Finwiz's picture

A lock - YES. Funny how posters seemed to know this before the writer/experts.

dobber's picture

Janis is a very polarizing guy, and he's worn out his welcome for a lot of the fans who were very strongly in his corner. I think the same is true for the writers and pundits. There have been several people here who had him cut last week. Some have changed their tune.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I was actually sort of rooting against him, as I wanted a younger guy with more cheap contract years.

But Janis is in.

ricky's picture

I was a big supporter of Janis. Now? Not so much. This idea that he has improved and will finally be a viable part of the offense is getting annoying. The guy is big, quick, fast, and dumber than a box of hammers when it comes to running a route. Let him freelance, and he's your guy. Ask him to run a crisp, reliable route where the QB can throw the ball before your final cut- forget it. I've come to the reluctant conclusion he'll never be what we all hoped he'd be.

Ferrari Driver's picture

Ricky,

Janis is anything but dumb. He beat Brett Favre by 10 points on the Wonderlic intelligence test by scoring 30 which is one of the higher scores on the entire team. Apparently, 20 is an average score, equating to an IQ of 100.

The guy is significantly smarter than most of us posting on this site and I too am surprised he didn't master route running during the preseason of his rookie season.

marpag1's picture

There are plenty of players with ordinary intelligence who happen to be "football smart." If there is "football smart," then there is also "football dumb." Jeff Janis appears to be "football dumb."

croatpackfan's picture

During preseason games players are running basic WR routes. Any WR knows to run those routes. But, when season starts routes tree become more complicated, with many variations. That routes are designed to win the game, not to evaluate players and you are not willing to use them in preseason. Is that so hard to understand?
Also, QB throws the ball before WR (or RB or TE) come to the position were he will catch the ball, That underline bold the importance of timing and reaching the place in route running...
So, when we are talking about Jeff Janis, I wish him the best, as for LaDarius Gunter. I see those 2 players as hard working, dedicated to Packers players, what I respect. But for both, if there is better player(s) he must go in front of them!

TXCHEESE's picture

I still have hope for him. Playing receiver in this offense is a learning experience, especially for someone with a small school background. I remember it took Jordy till year 3 to really get going, and I think a lot of that has to do with the chemistry he and Rodgers developed as younger teammates on the scout teams. Last year's broken hand set him back, but he's got all the tools he needs.

donnyanderson44's picture

He is one of those guys who can prevent a team from scoring or making a big play. If you don't have a good gunner your giving a team good field position. Like a long snapper they may not play much but you need a good one all the same.

al bundy's picture

I say cut him. He had three years to learn the playbook. During that time he was so unrealible you couldn't use him. Why does he get a spot overnew younger guys who deserve their shot.

cuervo's picture

I'll tell you why Al, because he has incredible value as a 5th or 6th reciever. He's probably the best gunner in the NFL right now. Do you think any of the other "cheaper younger guys" can even tackle?

Players like Janis are required for elite teams. He's fantastic on special teams, and when he has been called upon to play, he has produced. Is he ever going to be the #2 or even #3 receiver....no, but he doesn't have to be.

If the Packers were so stupid to cut him, he would be picked up before he left the parking lot.

LayingTheLawe's picture

Janis will probably never be a starting receiver. But he can come in and run a jet sweep or a deep pass route and have some value as the number 5 or 6 receiver. And at the same time he can be your kick returner and punt return team gunner. Unless you think one of these other guys is a star in waiting they have way less value as the number 6 receiver than Janis has with his special team play.

Handsback's picture

Great article and some great post about Janis. He's not stupid, but he might have been receiver dumb. (not knowing how and what to do as a receiver) It has taken him four years to run a route so that the DB has no idea what he's going to do. It has taken him four years to track the ball so he can catch an over the shoulder pass. It has taken him four years to see what the QB sees and make the proper adjustment.

So now you have this guy who can contribute as a 4th/5th WR that has amazing physical attributes and BTW...is a very good STs guy, do you think after all that investment in trying to teach him how to be a receiver that Green Bay will cut him? I think not! He has made the team or will be traded, but won't be cut. I was one who thought this would be his last Packers TC. I can admit when I'm wrong...and I think I was wrong in saying he would be cut.

flackcatcher's picture

Frankly, I'll never understand how fans and sports writers can undervalue special teams play. I think we get so locked on the splash play, we overlook consistently good play in games. Jeff Janis(JANIS!) is a perfect example of this, Last year I counted 10 plays where he single handily changed field position during the packers run. His work in both the giants and cowboys game made him a game changer by both teams doubling up, and putting their best ST players on him. And some want to CUT HIM. You do understand he is a top ST player in the league, right. You carry him on the 53, cause he changes the playing field in your favor every time, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. What Janis gives the packers as a WR is a bonus ,and gives MM another tool to plan with. Handsback's comment is dead on. Janis is a core player on this packer team, and it's time everybody recognizes that.

dobber's picture

With an erratic rookie punter, that kind of gunner will be necessary this fall.

lou's picture

Outstanding reply flackcatcher, unless you have played the game on a couple of levels special team play is often regarded as a spot you can easily move a position player into, how many comments have we seen where someone says, if one of the young WR's can play special teams (name any one of them) then Janis can be cut. Janis is very rare as a special teams player, there are few special team players in the NFL who have both optimal size and speed, and almost none that have that combination plus being totally fearless, Janis fits the bill in all 3 categories, that is RARE.

stockholder's picture

Seems to me a lot of people just keep beating up on the guy. He stayed in line and learned. And now you want to keep some rookie. How many of you are missing out on the fact that Janis is stepping up. (To reach that level that we all expected.) Janis measures up now. Great things can happen. So shake off the stupid marks. The guy is a talent and it shows at gunner. Encouragement and Praise was never was shown by A-rod. Janis is a fighter. Sure he'll probably play somewhere else next year. But this guy stock is on the rise in the NFL. He will help the packers as long as he's here.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Since I suspect that WRs #1 through #4 will get all of the playing time, and production from #5, #6, and #7 will not be needed given the top 4, the TEs, and Monty, I have been looking at the options for WRs #5-7 in a different light. I have been looking for potential in the last 3 WRs, rather than what they can do in 2017.

Thus, I've been looking at Davis, Clark, Dupre, Yancey, and Max solely as candidates to replace Jordy outside or Cobb in the slot in 2018. I am not even overly concerned about what the candidate offers towards STs. Special Teams ability is still a plus, but much less for me than usual. The only other factor I've considered is whether the player can make it to the PS. I do think in 2017 we would be a better team with Janis as the gunner, KR, and a receiver on Hail Marys, jet sweeps, and gadget plays, I am perfectly willing to sacrifice those traits if another player has enough potential for 2018. Right now, only Clark has shown the potential I'm looking for, despite not being able to run a route to save his life.

After this article, I will evaluate Janis keeping in mind his potential, and not just his ST abilities.

RCPackerFan's picture

You bring up a great point. The Packers don't only look at what a players potential is for this year, but what their potential could be next year and beyond. They have redshirted a lot of players over the years, and could do it again this year.
A guy like Clark could be the guy they choose to redshirt and keep on the 53. I actually think his route running is better then I thought it would be. He had one catch against the Redskins. That play however he ran a great route on. And the thing with Clark is if he was forced to play, he is so unique that they could literally just throw it up for him to come down with. While being raw he could still be used if they had to because he is a mismatch with his size.

I'm not saying they will keep Clark. I think he will likely be put on the PS. But I am saying that there is a chance that they would keep Clark to redshirt the year on the 53. Or redshirt for the first part of the year in hopes he could be ready to play at the end of the year.

dobber's picture

"That play however he ran a great route on. And the thing with Clark is if he was forced to play, he is so unique that they could literally just throw it up for him to come down with."

I'm just not that high on him. A guy who runs one route will be ridiculously easy for an NFL-caliber CB (or CB with S help) to defend. They'll just squeeze him at the boundary and he won't have a chance.

I think if the coaching staff (who sees him every day) feels that he's got potential, he gets a year on the PS. I don't think, based on 2 games, that they'll have much trouble getting him there.

RCPackerFan's picture

Right now I'm looking at it as Janis is on the roster until someone or someones unseats him.

We have seen splash plays from Davis and Yancey. Dupre was looking good until he took that wicked hit. McCaffrey is consistent and can do about anything.
Also can't rule out a guy like Clark.

These last 2 preseason games are where some of these guys can earn spots on the 53. If anyone of these guys stands out they will greatly increase their chances of making the 53.

PatrickGB's picture

I agree with you RC. He started out as a 7th round, one trick pony stuck behind better WRs. Next was a year with no real WR coach. Next broke his hand. He pissed of Aaron with not knowing or performing his routes in practice enough to be trusted in games. He made the team in all those years despite the above because of his skills on STs and injuries to other WRs.
This year he sounds like he understands many of the nuances of being a better WR. Time will tell. This year he faces even tougher challenges at the bottom of the roster with Max and Davis challenging his spot on STs. Yet I still like the guy and wish him the best. We still have two more games to go before the cutdown and time will tell the results. May the best man win.

cpitt's picture

Jordy, Cobb, Adams, Allison, Janis, Davis, Yancey

Absolutely zero chance Clark makes the 53. They PS Max and Clark.

No one is going to pick up Clark guys, he's caught one pass. Unless he goes off for five catches and a hundred yards next game or two he is easily onto the PS.

cpitt's picture

Dupree to IR

Spock's picture

cpitt, Dupre is back at practice. There's an article about him and Ty returning to practice on the Packers official site. So, no, he will not be on the IR.

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