Let the Jeff Janis Hype Machine get fired up again.
On the second play of a starters-vs.-starters two-minute drill at Monday’s organized team activity, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers rolled out to his left and fired a bomb to Janis, who was matched up one-on-one against No. 1 cornerback Sam Shields. Both players got their hands on the ball, with Janis catching the rebound and strolling the final few yards into the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown.
“I think it carries value,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after practice. “How much, I can’t really sit here and weigh it. But, yes, I definitely look at plays like that as that’s a successful play. That’s a big football play, whether it’s practice or a game. Any time you’re out there making plays, it not only gives you as an individual confidence and also the quarterback, but also your teammates, too. It’s all part of that competitive environment that you can’t have enough of. Particularly when you’re dealing with young, developmental players, whether it’s Year 1, 2 or 3, it’s important to make those plays.”
It's the type of play that should merit further opportunities from Rodgers, who didn’t enjoy much of a comfort level with the potential-packed Janis in the receiver’s first two seasons.
"It’s about route-running and taking that jump in a comfort level out there," Rodgers said. "When he can stop thinking so much and react more, you see the athletic ability. He’s obviously gifted very well with his athleticism, his jumping ability and his speed. He just needs to get to a level where he’s not thinking as much and his instincts take over."
Janis was not put in position to make those plays last season. Even with the Packers’ offense stuck in a funk as star receiver Jordy Nelson sat out the season with a torn ACL, Janis mostly watched the offense struggle from the sideline. He caught only two passes for 79 yards – both in a Week 6 game vs. San Diego – until injuries thrust him into the spotlight in the playoff game at Arizona. He responded with seven catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including a 60-yard catch that set up his 41-yard Hail Mary touchdown that sent the game to overtime.
“Jeff’s a big target that can go deep,” McCarthy said. “I think the play he made today was really good concentration on his part, competing through the interaction with the DB and the tip of the ball and keep playing. He’s a very strong wide receiver. I think that’s what surprises people.”
While Janis barely played on offense last season, he made his mark on special teams. He finished with 15 tackles and played a key role in Tim Masthay breaking his own record for net punting average. He also jump-started the kickoff-return unit by averaging 29.0 yards on 14 runbacks. It was a major step forward compared to the former Division II star’s rookie season, when he was inactive for 13 games.
“I’d like to see him take that same step as a wide receiver,” McCarthy said.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.