Jeff Janis saved the Green Bay Packers’ season — if only for a moment — with two catches for 101 yards and the game-tying touchdown on a do-or-die drive that forced overtime at Arizona.
During an organized team activity last Monday, Janis made a leaping, 62-yard touchdown catch over cornerback Sam Shields.
On Tuesday, the first day of minicamp, Janis got behind starting defensive backs Damarious Randall and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and ... dropped a bomb from Brett Hundley.
Later, during fundamentals-focused individual drills, he dropped a pair of passes that any Pop Warner player would have made routinely.
That is the story of Janis’ brief career: Incredible potential, with fleeting moments of greatness followed by maddening stretches of inconsistency. It’s that inconsistency that Janis must conquer if he’s ever going to become an integral part of the offense.
“I think the more consistent you can be, the better,” Janis said after practice. “I can only control certain things, and that’s one of them. So I’ve just got to try keep getting better at that.”
Inconsistency is why Janis languished on the bench for almost all of last season, even while the offense couldn’t find its way following Jordy Nelson’s torn ACL. While he excelled on special teams throughout the season and provided a lift as a kickoff returner, Janis caught only two passes in the first 17 games.
“He just needs to continue to progress through the fundamentals of the position,” coach Mike McCarthy said last week. “Special teams, he had an excellent year last year — graded out as one of our top players. I’d like to see him take that same step as a wide receiver.”
For that to happen, days like Tuesday must be eliminated from the equation. After all, why should quarterback Aaron Rodgers or the coaches trust Janis to make a play with a game on the line in September if he can’t catch a 10-yard pass when not covered by a defensive back during a June practice?
“It’s about route-running and taking that jump in a comfort level out there,” Rodgers said last week. “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.”
Those athletic gifts were on display in the playoff game at Arizona. In 20 career games to that point, Janis had caught four passes for 95 yards. Against the Cardinals, he had one of the best individual performances in Packers postseason history with seven catches for 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The hope at the time was that play would serve as a launching point to Janis’ career. However, that was almost five months ago.
“Offensively, I’d say probably just a little more confident. After getting some reps last year, and obviously at the end of the year in the Arizona game, it definitely boosts your confidence and lets you know that you can play out there,” Janis said. “And then being on the same page with Aaron and being successful with him, it just makes you feel a little at ease when you’re out there.”
That trust level will be crucial. Otherwise, Janis will spend this season doing little more than covering kicks and returning kickoffs while watching a retooled offense. The touchdown pass over Shields was big — not only was it a touchdown but Janis prevented Shields from making an interception on a 50-50 ball. As for Tuesday’s drops? Maybe Rodgers, who with a bunch of veterans was allowed to skip this camp, never will see them.
“He just has a high level of expectation,” Janis said. “So, guys that don’t reach that, he’s not sure if he can trust you on the field or not. So just trying to build that trust, and last year, yeah, it helped. But this is a new year, and I’ve got to keep doing it.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.