Perseverance Pays Off for Packers WR Jeff Janis

Thrust into a key role for the first time in his young career, Jeff Janis made two big plays on offense and had an impact on special teams, as well.

Jeff Janis was waiting for this day for a long, long time.  The day he could finally step onto the field in a regular season game and make an impact for the Green Bay Packers.

Sunday was that day.

On a glorious, sun-splashed autumn afternoon at Lambeau Field, the second-year player from Saginaw Valley State finally emerged from the shadows by making clutch plays on offense and special teams as the Packers held off the stubborn San Diego Chargers 27-20.  He got into the game on offense when Ty Montgomery suffered an ankle injury. The first time Janis touched the ball came at 8:56 in the second quarter.  With the Packers facing third-and-10 at their 43, Rodgers scrambled left out of the pocket and saw Janis streaking deep downfield.

“Aaron told me to go deep so I did it,” said a smiling, excited Janis after the game.  “I saw him rolling out to the left and he checked it and made the play. I was going deep, running the post and was looking to my right. When I saw him roll to the left, I figured I’d go that way and he ended up throwing it down the field.  Aaron might have been throwing to Richard (Rodgers) because he thought the ball was coming to him. I just reacted to it and went over and tried to make a play. It was huge. We always talk about explosive gains. That’s something we preach all the time in our meetings. It just gets that momentum going and hopefully we can complete drives.”

Janis wound up at the Chargers’ 11-yard line, setting up Mason Crosby’s 23-yard field goal to give the Packers a 17-3 lead. To finally be able to contribute on offense was something Janis savored.

“It feels pretty good,” said Janis. “You hate to see a guy go down but you just gotta stay ready and I feel like I was pretty ready. Just taking the reps throughout practice, staying with the game plan and just going out there and executing. It’s not really difficult (staying ready) but it’s getting the timing down and things like that. That’s probably the most challenging thing. As far as game plan goes, it’s usually pretty easy to stay ready.”

On the day, Janis caught two passes for 79 yards and was targeted four times by his MVP quarterback. Staying ready to play is one thing. Being able to gain a measure of confidence from Aaron Rodgers is quite another for any of the young receivers on the Packers’ roster.

“It’s been pretty tough because I have limited reps with him during the week,” Janis explained. “So the reps you do get with him you want to make count. When you get into the game and you’re able to make a couple of plays with him, it really helps your confidence and helps his trust to make him look your way again.”

Rodgers did look Janis’ way again and it came late in the fourth quarter with the Packers on a drive trying to put the Chargers away. On second-and-8 from Green Bay’s 47, Rodgers tossed a shovel pass ahead to Janis, who turned on the jets for 20 yards before safety Darrell Stuckey and linebacker Denzel Perryman closed in to make the tackle.

‘It was just another shallow route,” said Janis. “I came across and kind of got hit by the defender there and broke loose. He (Rodgers) looked right at me and threw me the ball and I turned up field to get as many yards as I could. I saw two defenders and was going to try and split ‘em but people in the NFL are pretty fast and that makes it a little more difficult. It felt really good to get the ball in the open field and it was just another play that really helped my confidence. I was feeling pretty comfortable out there and Aaron made a good toss, too. It was a well-executed play. You have to be on your toes because he can be unpredictable at times. That just comes from taking reps with him, getting his mannerisms down and kind of expecting what he’s going to do.”

“He made two good plays,” Rodgers said of Janis. “He made the reaction play on kind of a scramble drill and then as I evaded the rush there on the last drive he made a nice job to use his speed. He’s a fast guy. We like to try to get him in space at times and he did a good job with the run after the catch there.”

Could Janis be headed for a bigger role in this offense?

“I think it’s yet to be determined,” Rodgers cautioned. “We’ll see what Ty’s (Montgomery) status is and Davante (Adams). It’d be great to get Davante back because he adds another dimension on the outside with his quick-twitch ability. The week (off) will be good for both of those guys but we have spots for a lot of different people. We’ve got to find ways to get our best players on the field at all times and ways to get the ball to them in space.”

Veteran receiver James Jones, who caught two passes for 30 yards and a touchdown, also took notice of the fact that Janis stepped up when it mattered most.

“Big game. Big game, man. I’m proud of him,” said Jones who was in a bit of a rush to leave the locker room.

Janis also made his presence felt on special teams.  In the third quarter, he made two stellar plays. First, on punt coverage, when he lowered the boom on Jacoby Jones at the Chargers’ 16. A bit later, San Diego punter Mike Scifres somehow managed to escape the speedy rush of Janis, who came within an eyelash of blocking the kick. It was so close, one had to wonder how Janis did not block it.

“That’s a good question,” Janis laughed.  “I’m going to have to watch that one over and over because I don’t know how that didn’t happen. I had a certain gap and it opened right up. I had a clean path to the ball and put my hands down to the block point and I don’t know if it went through my arms or what. It was definitely close, that I know.”

“Jeff is playing very well,” added coach Mike McCarthy. “I mean, Jeff has done a really good job on special teams and he continues to get better there. I like what he did with his opportunities on offense. A huge play in the game but I think he’s another example of a young player really stepping up in his second year.”

The bye week couldn’t come at a more perfect time for Green Bay’s walking wounded. There will be some time for rest and healing. And, for Janis, more time to keep his nose in the playbook and to get ready to make the most of his next opportunities.

“It’s definitely important and I think we all need it,” said Janis. “It’s a good rest period to get a lot of guys healthy and come back fresh.”

The Packers know they’ll have to be fresh when they return to the wars.  The schedule gets a bit rougher with a road trips to Denver, Minnesota and Arizona as well as a home clash against the Dallas Cowboys.  But for now, hurts, bruises and all, 6-0 feels mighty fine.

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