McCarthy Sees Big Things for Janis

That's just what the doctor ordered for a draft-and-develop program that hadn't developed enough firepower to offset some key free-agent departures and, therefore, wound up lacking much balance in the passing game in 2014.

Draft and develop.

It’s the method behind the Green Bay Packers’ roster-building madness.

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So as the coaches and scouting staff convene at the Scouting Combine here in Indianapolis to scout the possible receiver stars of tomorrow, the Packers have a couple in-house candidates to fortify a pass-catching group that’s lost Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jermichael Finley in the past couple offseason. One of them is Jeff Janis, a rookie seventh-round pick who was forgotten by just about everybody but the fans. Janis caught two passes for 16 yards and was inactive for 13 of 16 games.

“I think Jeff is going to take a big step,” coach Mike McCarthy told a small group of regular beat writers at a hotel nearby Lucas Oil Stadium on Thursday. “He’s got a big catching radius, and he needs to utilize it. Obviously, I think we all saw his vertical speed (in the preseason and training camp). He’s an extremely physical young man. He’s an Olympian in the weight room. He’s got a lot of raw skill, and I look for him to make that jump. He has to use that catching radius, and he has the type of body type you really like. You look at him and Jordy (Nelson) and Davante (Adams) and (Jarrett) Boykin, they’re all kind of built the same – long arms, big hands.”

While the passing game consistently went through Nelson and Randall Cobb, who combined for more than half of the receptions and almost two-thirds of the yards and touchdowns, the Packers consistently looked for another option as Adams and Richard Rodgers battled through inconsistent rookie seasons and Boykin bombed after emerging in 2013.

Janis never became that guy. While he scored a pair of 30-plus-yard touchdowns in the preseason, Janis remained buried on the depth chart. Including the playoffs, he was in street clothes for the final 12 games. Nor did he get a chance to jump-start an impotent kickoff-return unit that mustered just two returns of 30-plus yards all season. Janis had a 62-yard kickoff return in the preseason finale.

However, as a Division II player, Janis faced a steep learning curve. And with a healthy roster meaning a challenge filling out the seven-man gameday inactive list, Janis was kept in mothballs.

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“I wouldn’t say he was not ready,” McCarthy said. “Special teams factors in that. The kickoff return was something I toyed with doing a number of times.”

But as the season progressed and the stakes got higher, McCarthy decided to not move beyond the “toying” stage.

The stage, however, is set for 2015.

“You don’t want them coming up at the end of the year with the youngest guys playing the most important games. Because, Lord knows, we had way too much of that here in the past,” McCarthy said. “We had all those injuries, and then you’re playing with really young guys at the end of the year. But I thought probably after Thanksgiving, I thought Jeff really picked it up. He was more comfortable, and so I look for him to take a step. He’s got to play with extension. That’s the one thing he has to do a better job of, but you can see it on the scout team and, at the end of the year, he was running some really good routes. Really good routes.”

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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