2016 January : Packers Insider

Jeff Janis hopes momentum can carry over into next season

January 23, 2016 by  
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From Lori Nickel, Journal-Sentinel

~Green Bay — Green Bay Packers receiver Jeff Janis had two receptions for 79 yards during the 2015-’16 regular season, giving him a total of four catches for 95 yards in his two-year NFL career.

But he was hardly an unknown around Titletown. With size and speed, if only the arena of special teams to display it, the fan favorite had potential, just not a proven track record.

But when Randall Cobb got hurt Saturday night in the second quarter at Arizona, the second-year receiver out of Saginaw Valley State became quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ go-to guy with 145 yards on seven receptions in Saturday’s thrilling 26-20 loss.

With such a performance, it is hard not to wonder why the 6-foot-3, 219-pound speedy wideout didn’t get more playing time earlier, especially with other receivers injured this season.

“As a receiver, he was inconsistent, had some chances, up-and-down,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. “But with that, I think he definitely learned from those experiences and just had a tremendous game against Arizona.”

On Monday, Janis was unwilling to second-guess his coach’s decisions. The fans can, as they have all year. And the fans are right.

Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis catches a 41-yard touchdown on the final play of regulation against the Cardinals in Saturday’s playoff game. -Getty Images

“The biggest thing is it tells me to myself that I can play,” Janis said. “When you have a confident player, I think that helps. You see some of the premier receivers in the league, they’re confident guys because they know that they’re good.

“There’s a difference between cocky and confidence. To be able to have that confidence and know that you can make plays, it’s big.”

Janis was not only limited in his game experience, but he also didn’t get nearly the same amount of practice repetitions as the starters. That might have been affecting him earlier in the year, he said.

“Sometimes in the back of your head, if you’re not getting very many reps, you kind of lose your confidence and think to yourself, ‘I don’t know if I can play at this level,'” Janis said. “When you actually get out there and get reps and make some catches, make some plays, yeah, it reminds you of college again. ‘Man, I can play out here.'”

On Saturday night in Arizona with everything on the line, he plucked a 41-yard Hail Mary touchdown out of the sky just as time expired to set up the game-tying extra point.

He made the catch over Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson.

“That’s pretty cool to be able to do that against one of the best players in the league; it was pretty crazy,” Janis said. “I put my head down and ran, turned around and there it was.”

Janis hopes that he’s building a rapport with his quarterback, something he’s talked about regularly in his two seasons in Green Bay, admitting that at times they’re not quite on the same page.

“It’s still something that’s going to take a little while. It’s going to take more practice reps, and more game reps,” Janis said.

But the two talked on the sideline after Janis missed a shot at an earlier touchdown because he wasn’t quite in the right place.

Janis vows to study a lot this off-season and whenever Rodgers speaks, he listens and takes notes.

“Just writing those things down and taking a mental note of them so when they do come up, even though it might be once a game, he expects you to do it,” Janis said. “I think that’s where the leap comes.”

McCarthy was impressed that Janis maintained his special teams duties at Arizona even with the heavy workload at receiver. After seeing Janis “struggled in the preseason,” according to McCarthy, he watched him get better every week.

The Packers expect to have a lot of receivers next season: Jordy Nelson, Cobb, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, Jared Abbrederis and Janis. James Jones will be a free agent and the team could look at receivers in the draft. Players like to say you’re only as good as your last game, so they have to feel encouraged by what they saw from No. 83.

“Hopefully I’ll get a bit more involved in the offense next year,” Janis said. “I don’t want to be the guy that’s saying I need to be starting or anything like that. Just to be able to help the offense a little more next year would be nice.”

Original story here

Jeff Janis catches bit of playoff history

January 23, 2016 by  
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By Rob Reischel, JSonline

~producing arguably the most surprising post-season performance in Green Bay Packers history.

Jeff Janis might now be No. 2.

Back in 1966, McGee had just four receptions all season. Then when Boyd Dowler was injured on the first series of Super Bowl I, McGee entered and caught seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns, and helped lead Green Bay past Kansas City.

Amazingly, Janis also had just four receptions for 95 yards in his two-year NFL career. Then when Randall Cobb left early with a chest injury in Green Bay’s NFC divisional playoff game at Arizona, Janis entered and put up numbers almost identical to McGee’s from 49 years earlier.

Janis caught seven passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns in Green Bay’s thrilling 26-20 overtime loss. And amazingly, Janis had 101 receiving yards on Green Bay’s game-tying drive, highlighted by a 41-yard, game-tying touchdown reception on the final play of regulation.

The only difference, of course, is McGee’s team hoisted the Lombardi Trophy after his heroics, while Janis’ group saw their season end.

“When Randall went down I didn’t really have a choice,” Janis said. “I just had to go in and try to do my best to make plays, and that’s what I did.”

(Mark Hoffman) -Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis catches a 41-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the final play of regulation on Saturday.

Now, after seeing the spectacular results, the greatest question surrounding Janis is, “Why wasn’t he playing earlier?”

Prior to the Packers’ loss, Janis had played in just 136 snaps all season. In the last five games, Janis played just 25 snaps.

But when Cobb went down, the Packers had just three healthy receivers, including James Jones and Jared Abbrederis. And Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy had no choice but to turn to Janis.

Janis finished with the third most receiving yards in Packers’ playoff history. His two touchdown receptions also tied eight other players for second place in that category.

“Jeff Janis, he’s taken advantage of some opportunities and he’s just a young man who needs to play,” said McCarthy, the man who determines playing time. “He’s got a lot of raw ability. He made some huge, huge plays.”

After watching Janis feast on Arizona’s secondary, it seems almost criminal that he wasn’t playing earlier.

Janis (6-3, 219) has almost identical measurables to Jordy Nelson (6-3, 217), who tore his ACL in August. Janis ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds at the 2014 NFL combine.

Janis has a vertical jump of 371/2 inches, something he showed the world on his game-tying touchdown. And Janis had a 20-yard shuttle time of 3.98 seconds, which was the fourth-fastest among wideouts at the 2014 combine.

After losing Nelson, the Packers’ wideout group was the slowest in football. Still, Janis couldn’t get on the field with any regularity before playing 40 snaps in Arizona — his second most of the year.

“With the type of guys that we have in our room and the caliber of guys that we have in our room, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be playing, either,” Janis said. “It’s just the way the league is. I’ve got to take my reps where I can get them, whether it’s special teams or offense. You’ve got to make the best of them.”

Much was made throughout the year of Janis earning the trust of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Janis, who played at Saginaw Valley State, wasn’t a player that Rodgers ever fully trusted.

But with no other alternatives Saturday, Rodgers had little choice but to feed Janis the ball at times. And the results were sublime.

“I think what happened the other night helps, but it’s still something that’s going to take a little while,” Janis said of his relationship with Rodgers. “It’s going to take more practice reps, and more game reps.
“Until that happens, yeah, I think I gained his trust a little bit more. To be a starter would, that takes a whole other level of trust. I’m just going to keep working on that whenever I can, whenever I get reps with him.”

Janis showed in Arizona that he could be worthy of far more reps in 2016.

Janis made a terrific route adjustment and beat cornerback Justin Bethel for an 8-yard, third quarter touchdown that gave Green Bay a 13-7 lead.

Later, with the Packers trailing 20-13, they faced a fourth-and-20 from their own 4-yard line with 55 seconds left. Rodgers escaped pressure, rolled to his left, then fired a dart to Janis for 60 yards that kept Green Bay’s season alive.

Two plays later, the Packers were at Arizona’s 41-yard line, but down to just 5 seconds. The Cardinals rushed six — the opposite approach Detroit took two months ago — and Rodgers escaped to his left.

Rodgers released the ball from Green Bay’s 45-yard line a split second before getting leveled and threw it five yards deep in the end zone. The Cardinals had two players waiting for the moon ball — including all-world cornerback Patrick Peterson.

But Janis, who was trailing the play, out-jumped both Arizona players for the ball. And Green Bay’s second Hail Mary completion in two months sent the game into overtime.

“Because of the trajectory of the ball and everything, I was like, ‘Oh, boy, this is going to be a tough one,’ ” Janis said. “But I put my head down and ran, turned around and there it was.”

Now, here Janis is. And it will be interesting to see what McCarthy and Co. do with him in 2016.

Nelson is expected to be fully recovered by the start of next season. Cobb is the expected No. 2, but he had a disappointing season.

Davante Adams was given every chance to win a starting job, but failed miserably and will have to fight for a roster spot. Second-year man Jared Abbrederis flashed late in the year, while rookie Ty Montgomery had his moments before an ankle injury ruined his season.

Perhaps Janis will be the hidden gem in this group, though.

Janis proved in Arizona that Green Bay’s coaching staff erred by not playing him throughout the season. And the 24-year-old Janis hopes that Saturday night was just the start of something special.

“I think the biggest thing is it tells me to myself that I can play,” Janis said. “When you have a confident player, I think that helps.

“You see some of the premier receivers in the league, they’re confident guys because they know that they’re good. There’s a difference between cocky and confidence. To be able to have that confidence and know that you can make plays, it’s big.”

JANIS’ BIG GAME

A breakdown of Jeff Janis’ catches against the Cardinals on Saturday:

SECOND QUARTER: 4 catches; 36 yards

THIRD QUARTER: 1 catch; 8 yards, TD

FOURTH QUARTER: 2 catches; 101 yards, TD on final drive*

*1. Aaron Rodgers passed deep left to Janis for 60 yards from GB 4 to ARZ 36.

2. After an illegal motion penalty on Richard Rodgers, Aaron Rodgers threw deep middle to Janis for a 41-yard TD.

This story appeared in Packer Plus Magazine. To subscribe, call 414-224-2222 or go towww.jsonline.com/subscribe.

Green Bay Packers Hail Mary makes Tawas native Jeff Janis instant star

January 23, 2016 by  
Filed under News

From lee Thompson, MLive.com

~
Two catches all season did nothing for the reputation of Jeff Janis.

Two catches on the final drive of regulation in the NFC playoff game between his Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals made him a star.

The former Tawas Area and Saginaw Valley State University standout made two of the most improbable receptions of the season, taking the Packers from one goal line to the other in spectacular fashion.

His 60-yard reception on fourth-and-20 gave the Packers a glimmer of hope — and things got better from there. On the final play of regulation, Janis soared in the end zone to haul down a 41-yard touchdown on a Hail Mary toss from Aaron Rodgers, drawing the Packers into a 20-20 tie.

Arizona would spoil the celebration, scoring a touchdown on a 5-yard shovel pass from Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald on the first possession of overtime for the 26-20 victory and trip to the NFC championship game.

Janis, a two-time Division II all-American who shattered virtually every school and conference record while playing for Saginaw Valley State University in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, finished the game with seven receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns.

And the backup wide receiver whose primary role was as a kick returner this season for the Packers was suddenly a sensation.

Janis only became part of the offensive gameplan after Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb departed with a chest injury in the first quarter.

He responded by catching his first NFL touchdown, an 8-yard grab that gave Green Bay a 13-7 lead with 10:25 left in the third quarter.

But fireworks were to follow once the Packers reached the desperation stage. Facing a fourth-and-20 from their own 5 and trailing 20-13, the Packers got new life when Rodgers scrambled to his left in the end zone and lofted a jump ball that Janis pulled down for a 60-yard gain.

After a penalty and an unsuccessful pass, Green Bay was down to its final play with 5 seconds on the clock. As he did in a game-winning play against the Detroit Lions, Rodgers sent a Hail Mary pass high into the air.

Janis outleaped the Cardinals defense and tumbled to the ground with the ball. The ball momentarily came loose, but Janis secured it as bedlam ensued around him.

With an hour, Twitter had nearly 30,000 mentions of the Tawas City native.

Janis was a versatile performer at smalltown Tawas Area High School in northeast Michigan who flew under the radar of college recruiters. He landed at SVSU and erupted as a junior, when the 6-foot-3, 218-pound receiver led the nation with 1,635 receiving yards. He finished his college career with 4,305 yards and 46 touchdowns receiving.

He was taken in the seventh round of the 2014 draft by the Packers and earned a spot as the primary kick returner this season. But he had just two catches for 95 yards as a wide receiver this season.

He changed all that Saturday, catching two passes for 101 yards on the final drive alone, including the Hail Mary that is sure to endear him to Packers fans across the globe.

 

Jeff Janis steps up in losing effort

January 23, 2016 by  
Filed under News

From Robert Zizzo, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

~GLENDALE, Ariz. – It took injuries to two of Green Bay’s top wide receivers, but second-year player Jeff Janis finally had his coming out party Saturday night in the desert.

The extremely athletic and, at times, painfully raw Janis was forced into action at the start of the second quarter and responded with a performance that will rank among the best in Green Bay playoff history.

Janis finished with seven receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns. His first touchdown gave Green Bay its first lead of the game and his second sent the game into overtime on a Hail Mary play.

His 145 receiving yards rank third in franchise playoff history, behind only Jermichael Finley’s 159 yards against Arizona in January 2010 and John Jefferson’s 148 against the St. Louis Cardinals in January 1983.

Janis joins eight other Packers with two touchdowns in one playoff game, second behind Sterling Sharpe’s three-touchdown performance against Detroit in January 1994.

Janis got his first snaps on offense only after Randall Cobb was forced to leave the game at the end of the first quarter with a chest injury sustained while making a falling, one-handed catch that was nullified by offsetting penalties.

With Davante Adams inactive because of a knee injury, Green Bay had only four receivers against Arizona.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis (83) makes a catch in the end zone as regulation expires against Arizona Cardinals free safety Rashad Johnson (26) at University of Phoenix Stadium. Jim Matthews/USA TODAY NETWORK-

Janis caught four of his seven passes in the second quarter alone, including a 6-yarder on a third-and-4 play.

Later, with about 10 minutes left in the third quarter, Aaron Rodgers was flushed out of the pocket on a third-and-goal play from the Arizona 8-yard line. Rodgers scrambled for 5.96 seconds, according to NBC, before finally finding Janis near the goal line for the touchdown to give Green Bay a 13-7 lead.

Then came the Packers’ final drive of the fourth quarter, one that will go down in franchise annals as one of the most unlikely. Trailing 20-13 with less than a minute to go, and facing fourth-and-20 and the end of their season from their own 4-yard line, Rodgers found Janis for a 61-yard pass to the Cardinals’ 36.

Two plays later, with 5 seconds to go, Rodgers launched a Hail Mary pass that Janis snatched in the end zone for 41 yards and the tie to force overtime as the clock expired.

“I saw Aaron throw it,” Janis said. “I tried to guess on the trajectory of it. I saw it coming down and just tried to jump up and make a play.”

The overtime ended quickly with Arizona winning 26-20, but Janis’ standout performance will give Green Bay fans hope going into next season that another deep receiving threat has been found.

“Jeff Janis, he’s taken advantage of some opportunities,” coach Mike McCarthy said, “and he’s just a young man that needs to play.

“He’s got a lot of raw ability and he made some huge, huge plays tonight.”

Said Janis, “Yeah, everybody thinks that they can come in and play. Everybody wants to come in and show that they can play. Like I said, I just knew I had to step up and that’s what I tried to do.”

In-game injuries

The Packers lost starting receiver Cobb at the end of the first quarter and defensive back Micah Hyde with 9 minutes left in the first half.

Cobb injured his chest making a remarkable one-handed 51-yard catch that was nullified by offsetting penalties. He spent the night in the Phoenix area under observation, according to Packers spokesperson.

Hyde injured his hip making a tackle on receiver Michael Floyd. Hyde was replaced in the dime defense by rookie Quinten Rollins.

Lacy breaks loose

Running back Eddie Lacy‘s 61-yard run early in the third quarter was the second-longest run in franchise playoff history.

James Lofton holds the record with a 71-yard run 33 years ago to the day, in a Jan. 16, 1983 game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Original story here

Jeff Janis, defense distinguished in defeat

January 23, 2016 by  
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From Eric Goska, For USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

~Anyone remember Alcoa’s “Fantastic Finishes”?

If ever there was an ending worthy of those 30-second vignettes that ran in the 1980s, it was the final minutes of Saturday night’s divisional playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals. The frantic denouement that took place between these two had to be seen to be believed.

Lacking a timeout and operating with backup receivers, Green Bay successfully launched two long-range bombs to force overtime. Arizona responded with an extended catch-and-run that set up the coup de grace — a five-yard TD run by receiver Larry Fitzgerald — that knocked out the Packers at University of Phoenix Stadium.

For Green Bay, it was the kind of heart-wrenching loss that has become all too familiar. Denied in the Desert will rank with Fourth-and-26, Favre’s Giant Pick, Squandering in Seattle and other debacles as one of the most crushing postseason exits in team annals.

But let’s not let the final outcome overshadow some excellent performances. Three are worth noting.

Despite Aaron Rodgers and/or Mike McCarthy trying to keep Janis on the bench, they needed him Saturday night, and lo & behold, he made the biggest play of the game for the Packers. Actually, the two biggest plays of the game.

Jeff Janis

The Packers’ receiving corps was hard hit by injury this season. Jordy Nelson (torn ACL), Ty Montgomery (ankle), Davante Adams (knee) and Andrew Quarless (knee) missed a combined 40 regular-season games.

Even so, Jeff Janis played sparingly at receiver. He was targeted 12 times during the regular season and caught just two passes for 79 yards.

Opportunity knocked in Arizona. The second-year pro was next up after Randall Cobb went out with a chest injury late in the first quarter.

Janis caught four passes for 36 yards in the second quarter. He snagged an eight-yard scoring toss from a scrambling Aaron Rodgers early in the third.

He outdid himself in the late going. First he secured a 60-yard bomb on fourth-and-20. Then the last-second Hail Mary where he outjumped cornerback Patrick Peterson to come away with a 41-yard TD that tied the score 20-20 on the last play of regulation.

Thirty years ago, his acrobatics would have been captured for replay in one of those television ads, sponsored by Alcoa, that featured last-minute heroics from around the league. The spots ran during the commercial break that followed the final two-minute warning.

Janis, who caught seven passes for 145 yards, became the first Packer to surpass 100 yards receiving in the fourth quarter of a postseason game. His 101 yards erased Sterling Sharpe’s previous record of 71 set in 1994.

His 60-yard catch also was a team playoff record. It was 12 yards better than the previous fourth-quarter long, that a 48-yard, Bart Starr-to-Carroll Dale collaboration against the Rams in 1967.

Finally, Janis’ 41-yard TD puts him in company with Sharpe as the two receivers who hauled in the longest fourth-quarter scoring passes in team playoff history. Sharpe reeled in a game-winning 40-yarder from Brett Favre in Detroit in 1994.

That Fitzgerald broke open overtime with a 75-yard reception should not detract from Janis’ accomplishments. When called upon, the 24-year-old receiver seized the moment as few have done before.

Holding down the fort

Green Bay’s defense more than held its own against Arizona’s running game. In years past, such stinginess always had been rewarded with victory.

Linebackers Jake Ryan and Clay Matthews led a unit that gave up 40 yards rushing on 19 carries. The group did not allow a run longer than eight yards and surrendered just two first downs rushing, both in the first quarter.

Before Saturday, the Packers were 10-0 when holding an opponent to fewer than 50 yards rushing in a playoff game. Green Bay set the NFL record for fewest yards allowed rushing in a playoff game (minus-4) against the Lions on Dec. 31, 1994.

Scenic Route

The Packers strung together two time-consuming, first-half drives against Arizona. The possessions were the longest back-to-back advances (based on number of plays) by the team in postseason history.

Green Bay used 16 plays to travel 85 yards to set up Mason Crosby’s 28-yard field goal. Rodgers’ 19-yard run on third down highlighted a march that stretched seven minutes, 31 seconds.

The Packers then moved 71 yards in 16 plays to cue Crosby’s 34-yard boot. A third-down, 18-yard pass to Jared Abbrederis was the big gainer as 7:55 came off the clock.

Green Bay’s previous best twofer came against the Colts in a 13-10 overtime win on Dec. 26, 1965. Zeke Bratkowski directed 13- and 14-play excursions, the second of which Don Chandler capped with a 22-yard field goal that sent the game into overtime.

Had the Packers’ two long drives in Arizona culminated with touchdowns instead of field goals, they, and not the Cardinals, might have been Carolina’s opponent in Sunday’s NFC championship game.

Original story here

Janis had ‘hell of a year’ on special teams

January 23, 2016 by  
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From Ryan Wood, USA Today Network-Wisconsin

~Jeff Janis rarely played on special teams before the Green Bay Packers drafted him in the seventh round two years ago.

He was the best player on the field at Saginaw Valley State, a small Division II school. His purpose was to catch touchdowns, not cover punts. But that blazing, 4.3-second 40-yard-dash speed came in handy as the Packers’ gunner this season.

“I thought he had a hell of a year playing special teams,” coach Mike McCarthy said.

Janis was among the biggest reasons the Packers’ special teams were vastly improved in 2015. The team cultivated a strong foundation of core special teams players that included Janis, outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott, fullback Aaron Ripkowski, cornerback Quinten Rollins and safety and special teams captain Chris Banjo.

(Photo: Dan Powers/P-G Media/@powrpics)

The Packers ranked No. 17 overall in the Dallas Morning News’ annual special teams rankings, one year after ranking dead last. Their special teams were so abysmal in 2014, it cost them a trip to the Super Bowl with former tight end Brandon Bostick’s botched onside kick recovery in the NFC championship game at Seattle. Those mistakes vanished in 2015, replaced with some genuine bright spots.

The Packers ranked No. 1 in the NFL in punt coverage. Janis, a dominant gunner, led the special teams with 12 tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.

His special teams value was seen Saturday in Arizona. When Randall Cobb was knocked out of the Packers’ divisional playoff game with a bruised lung, Janis was forced to play the final three quarters at receiver. He was “gassed” to the point coaches tried to remove some of his responsibilities to keep him fresh, but they had to keep him at gunner.

“I was happy for him and proud of him” special teams coordinator Ron Zook said, “because we did ask a lot of him. We tried to take as much off of him as we could. We spelled him on the kickoff team, but there’s things that we needed him. We needed him on the punt team, we needed him as a gunner. And he did a great job, and he sucked it up.

“I heard on the phones one time in the second half there, ‘Jeff’s got to get back. Jeff’s got to get back.’ I thought to myself, ‘Poor guy, he’s dang near out of gas.’ But he sucked it up and did a great job.”

There are some similarities between gunner and receiver. Both require a player to beat contact off the line of scrimmage. A few steps down field, the two positions become quite different. While receivers are free to run their routes without contact because of NFL rules tilted toward the offense, gunners are abused all the way downfield.

Janis said it was difficult to get used to all the contact.

“There’s going to be contact the whole entire way,” Janis said, “and they’re not going to call holding, either. Basically, it’s using your hands, being physical and running as fast as you can, and trying to get by the guy. That’s what I was trying to do.”

He often must beat two — and sometimes three — blockers whose sole goal is to prevent him from tackling the punt returner. So those 12 tackles in 16 games are awfully impressive. They tied for seventh in the NFL, two behind special team Pro Bowlers Justin Bethel and Matthew Slater, according to Pro Football Focus.

His size and strength are valuable in his gunner role, but that speed makes all the difference.

Most people aren’t able to run with him,” Zook said. “So once he gets a step on them, he’s able to go.”

Janis hopes for bigger role after Hail Mary

January 23, 2016 by  
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From Ryan Wood, USA Today Network

~It was after Jeff Janis temporarily saved the Green Bay Packers’ season. After he tracked quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ pass like a center fielder chasing a pop fly, running 20 yards with the ball in midair. After he electrified the entire organization, somehow catching a second Hail Mary on the same drive.

When Janis got up from the end zone turf in Arizona, that’s when the Packers’ No. 6 receiver realized whom he wrestled the football away from. It was All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson.

“People kind of mentioned that,” Janis said two days later as he cleared out his locker inside Lambeau Field. “That’s pretty cool to be able to do that against one of the best players in the league. It was pretty crazy.”

A “big confidence boost,” Janis called the final drive of his second season. The kind of drive that can push a fledgling receiver over the top? Maybe.

(Photo: Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis)

A football field is 100 yards. Janis caught two passes totaling 101 to pull the Packers into a tie at the end of regulation Saturday in what eventually became a 26-20 overtime loss in the divisional playoffs.

It couldn’t have happened without some luck. You don’t see many Hail Marys. You almost never see them send a playoff game into overtime with no time left on the clock. You never, ever see them twice on the same drive. But this was more than good fortune.

In two plays, Janis showed all the skills that made it so maddening when game after game passed this season without him getting a serious opportunity.

There was the 4.3-second, 40-yard dash speed — getting behind the Cardinals’ defense for a 60-yard catch on fourth-and-20 from the Packers’ 4-yard line.

There was the 6-foot-3 height and 37 1/2-inch vertical — reaching to the sky for the final Hail Mary.

There was the strength — taking the football away from Peterson and holding on when he hit the ground.

“I think the biggest thing,” Janis said, “is it tells me to myself that I can play. When you have a confident player, I think that helps. You see some of the premier receivers in the league, they’re confident guys because they know that they’re good. There’s a difference between cocky and confident. To be able to have that confidence and know that you can make plays, it’s big.

“I’m going to channel that and bring it into next year and take off from there.”

At the end of a frustrating season, Janis admitted he needed a confidence boost. Perhaps the most puzzling part of the Packers’ offensive struggles was why their big, strong, fast receiver couldn’t get on the field. While Janis was dominant as a gunner covering punts, his 132 snaps were only a hair more than Jared Abbrederis’ 100.

Abbrederis started the season on the practice squad, battled injuries and played only nine games. Janis was available for all 16.
It wasn’t like the Packers had a logjam of talent at their receiver position. Without Jordy Nelson, they failed all season to stretch the field with their passing game. Davante Adams, a second-round pick in 2014, battled injuries and struggled to produce anything more than dropped passes all season. James Jones was productive, but not a true No. 1 threat.

The one thing the Packers’ offense needed was speed. The one thing Janis definitely had was speed. It seemed like a perfect marriage, but the wedding never came.

“Sometimes in the back of your head,” Janis said, “if you’re not getting very many reps, you kind of lose your confidence and think to yourself, ‘I don’t know if I can play at this level.’ When you actually get out there and get reps and make some catches, make some plays, yeah, it reminds you of college again. ‘Man, I can play out here.’”

In his season-review news conference this week, coach Mike McCarthy shed some light on Janis’ lack of opportunities. He said Janis “struggled” in the preseason, a slow start after his rookie year. McCarthy brought his receiver into his office at least once for a film session.

McCarthy watched Janis develop and learn throughout the season. When the Packers finally had no choice but to put him on the field, he was ready. Janis replaced Randall Cobb (bruised lung) in Arizona and finished with seven catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns. A “tremendous” game, McCarthy called it.

What impressed the coach most was how Janis contributed without being removed from his role on special teams.

McCarthy said his receiver was “gassed” by the end of the game.

“If there was ever a picture of one your teammates putting it all out on the field,” McCarthy said, “you definitely saw that on the last catch, on the Hail Mary. Playing special teams and playing that many snaps, and that many deep crossing routes was something we really wanted to do a lot of against their defense, and we weren’t able to do as much as we would like in the second half.”
As he reflected back on the season, McCarthy said he was pleased with Janis’ growth. Maybe it’ll help in the long term that the former seventh-round pick wasn’t thrust into a big role immediately.

Jordy Nelson, a former second-round pick, started only six games in his first three seasons. He played 235 snaps in his second season, not much more than Janis played this season. Nelson said a receiver can benefit from gradually transitioning to the NFL, especially in Green Bay.

“There’s more to being a receiver and playing in this offense than being athletic and making plays,” Nelson said. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s unbelievably talented and can make plays. You can see it on special teams, and you see it on the last drive, but there’s a whole mental aspect to this game. Everything is built on trust.

“It takes time. So he’s going to build it over years. That’s the benefit I had, that’s the benefit Randall (Cobb) had, that we weren’t thrust into it right away in Year 1 and Year 2.”

Even Saturday, Janis’ disconnect with Rodgers was clear. The Packers were driving early in the second quarter, until they met a third-and-8 at the Cardinals’ 10-yard line. Janis ran a corner route into the end zone. Rodgers threw an out route toward the sideline. Incomplete. The Packers settled for a field goal.
Janis said he and his quarterback were both at fault. Neither was on the same page, he said.

“Me and Aaron talked about that on the sideline after that,” Janis said. “It’s a combination of letting the DB get underneath me, and just not knowing where he was going to place the ball.”

Trust is hard to build without exposure. Janis hasn’t had much with his quarterback. The practice reps are few, he said. So he had to rely on team meetings.

Janis said he would take notes of Rodgers’ observations during film study, trying to see the game like his quarterback. It finally paid off in the last game of the season. Rodgers threw 11 passes to Janis on Saturday. He had a 146.8 passer rating on those throws, according to Pro Football Focus. It was the highest rating among all Packers receivers.

Two days later, Janis looked back at the game. Yes, he said, his production should earn Rodgers’ trust. A least “a little bit more,” he said. Janis hopes what happened Saturday will lead to more opportunities in his third season.

“Hopefully I’ll get a bit more involved in the offense next year,” Janis said. “I don’t want to be the guy that’s saying I need to be starting or anything like that. Just to be able to help the offense a little more next year would be nice.”

#LookingAhead: Packers could add pass-catching RB threat Forte & TE in Colts Allen or Fleener

January 17, 2016 by  
Filed under News

From Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor

~As usual, thankfully, the Packers end a season and look forward to a new one without many glaring needs or holes to fill.

Sure, there are a few, like at tight end and inside linebacker perhaps.

But if you aren’t improving, you’re falling behind.

How could the Packers improve? Add a running back who’s actually a good receiver out of the backfield.

Lacy and Starks and Crockett may be adequate at times as receivers. They’ve each had some success this year on screens, which were actually the offense’s best plays for awhile.

But they aren’t ‘weapons’ at all who are mismatches for most linebackers. They aren’t guys who can run real routes down field, and beat defenders, create mismatches for the defense.  Matt Forte is.

I remember when Matt Forte was being drafted, I wanted him because I thought he was so similar to our Ryan Grant and wanted to match them up. I didn’t realize how great Forte’s hands were. He’s hungry. Could he join former Bear Julius Peppers on the Bears’ rivals the Packers? Chicago would HATE to see that. Aaron Rodgers would love it.

Forte would be a nice compliment to Eddie Lacy. One guy is lean and stays in shape, and is a great route-runner with good hands. The other is a bull.

From B/R:  Forte is arguably the league’s most underrated back given his versatility and health through his first seven seasons, but his biggest knock entering free agency will be his age.

He’s already eclipsed the 30-year-old mark that is a general indicator of decline among running backs, which will affect his market value in dollars and years.

Forte earned $7.05 million in base salary in the final year of his last deal, but that figure seems steep moving forward, per Spotrac, which estimates that he’ll haul a base deal at $6.3 million over three years:

First off let’s be clear here: It’s extremely unlikely that at 30 years old, Matt Forte pulls in a contract averaging $7M+ per year. The reality here is that in terms of calculated production, Forte sits as an above average running back and an above average wide receiver. In 2014, Forte was 4th in the NFL with 102 receptions. When he’s healthy (and he has been most of his career), he’s still a yards from scrimmage hog, and his ability to be flexed around offensive schemes makes him valuable to plenty of franchises. His pay will likely be based on how a team plans to use him. He’s worth much more as a receiver than a running back.

At tight end, the Packers tight ends are the slowest unit assembled since the Ed West days. Even he got more separation than the current tight ends. Andrew Quarless has suffered too many knee injuries now. I think his days are done in a Packer uniform. He is one of the last few guys who were part of the 2010 Champion team.

Each of these guys was worthy of at least a 2nd round pick just a few years ago. It seems certain that one of them will be on a different team next year, probably Allen. He’d look good in Green & Gold, although the #83 is already taken. He’d need a new one, perhaps #81.

In Indianapolis, the Colts have two good tight ends who’s contracts are up. Both were fairly high draft picks and are talented players. Both were rated much higher in their pre-draft scouting reports than anything the Packers have right now.

This might cost Fleener some money this summer.

Coby Fleener was an early second rounder, while Dwayne Allen was the 64th pick. Allen is just 25 years old, Fleener is 27. Fleener is a thoroughbred who measured 6′ 6″ and ran a sub 4-6 forty at his combine. He’s buddies with Luck, from Stanford, and the Colts figure to choose to keep him, although he will cost a lot more than Allen.

Allen is more physical, although not as durable (so far) nor as tall.

Allen has battled injuries, which is something the Packers are used to and sick of. He’s only 6′ 3″, but big at 265. He had eight touchdowns last season when Andrew Luck was healthy, or playing a full year.

Another tempting option would be in San Diego, with 25-year old Ladarius Green.

Like Fleener, he has great size at 6′ 6″, and 240 pounds.

At 6′ 6″. Green is a mismatch for every single NFL safety including the tall Kam Chancellor.

Playing behind Antonio Gates, Green has not been featured, but he’s learned from the best. He’s only caught 77 passes in his 4-year career, in 120 targets, so a completion percentage of nearly 65%.

He’s scored seven career touchdowns, including beating Clay Matthews for a score this season in Lambeau.

Ladarius Green #89 of the San Diego Chargers catches a 19 yard pass against Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers, resulting in a touchdown in the third quarter at Lambeau Field on October 18, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

He was a 4th round pick in the 2012 Draft, out of Louisiana-Lafayette.

Not only would he be the Packers tallest target at tight end, he’d also be their fastest. He’s faster than Jermichael Finley was. The Packers have lacked a tight end capable of getting past linebackers and up the seam since Finley. Green would be a sensational addition and I’d sign the 25-year old to a four or five-year deal and not worry about TE in the draft this May.

When was the last time you saw a Packer tight end score from 60-yards out? Or run past safeties? How would this look in Green & Gold the next 4 or 5 years?

I don’t expect any of these guys to command huge money. Forte is oldish at just-turned-30, has plenty of mileage, and running backs aren’t nearly as ‘valuable’ as the olden days. Forte could be had, in my opinion. He’s a good person off the field, a devout Christian much like Peppers, Rodgers, Jordy, Randall, Eddie, HaHa, Abbrederis, McCarthy. He’d fit right in, as Peppers has.

Remember, former Packer running back Edgar Bennett headed south to the Bears after the Packers let him go. Might it be time for Forte to head north?

Here’s more on Forte and his free agency situation. Please, Teddy, make a move for once and scoop him up. Don’t let Belichick grab another solid veteran. It’s no wonder why the Patriots have been in six of the past 12 or so Super Bowls. They draft well, but add proven smart pieces in the off-season as well.

Matt Forte’s contract is up & he seems destined to leave . On paper, hard to imagine better fit than if cost is reasonable.

Fleener will be too costly. I’m not sure how much Allen will command, or Green. But I’d love to see LaDarius added to our own LaDarius Gunter. Nobody else in the NFL would have two LaDarius on the roster, at least until the draft perhaps.

On passing downs, imagine Forte and Green added to the receivers coming back. I don’t think the passing game will be a weakness again as it was this year, even if Jordy doesn’t return to form.

Imagine, 51 weeks from now, entering the 2016-17 playoffs, this lineup on passing downs:

QB- Rodgers
RB- Forte
WR- Jordy
WR- Cobb/Abbrederis
WR- Janis/Adams/Montgomery
TE- Green

Forte has to be accounted for out of the backfield. He’s had 102 catches in one season, last year. He can run all kinds of routes.

LaDarius Green, as seen above, is very similar to Jermichael Finley, except a tad faster and is listed one inch taller. He can get past linebackers and pull safeties down the middle.

Jordy and Janis have now both shown that despite their pigmentation, they are able to run past cornerbacks and use their 6′ 3″ size to their advantage. Janis should only get better, and he’s really just started to scratch the surface of what he’s capable of. Remember, besides running past people now, he scored a short, improvised touchdown last night in Arizona.

As seen above, we could be loaded at wide receiver. I listed 6, already giving James Jones #89 jersey to Green. But we usually don’t keep 6 wide receivers, and we usually only play 4, so there aren’t enough balls to go around for all those guys. In my opinion, Adams is the one who adds the least, well except amount of passes dropped.

Ty Montgomery did very well in his third of a season. Rodgers’ passing rating when targeting Ty was over 100, which is pretty impressive for this season.

I suppose with Ted Thompson, we’d be lucky to add one of these guys. If only one, would you rather add the RB Forte or the TE Green? For me, that’s a tough call because I think we need a tight end that can get open, and get deep. That dimension has been missing since J-Mike was injured. And he’s younger than Forte by 5 years.

About Time: Janis gets chance to help Offense, Validates fans calling for him

January 17, 2016 by  
Filed under News

From Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor

~Aaron doesn’t trust him.
He’s not on the same page as Aaron is.
He doesn’t run the routes right.
He’s too raw.

You’ve heard all the “excuses” by now as to why the speed-challenged Packers refused to throw Jordy Nelson-clone Jeff Janis out there on the field this season, in Nelson’s absence or otherwise.

4th & 20, from our own end zone, season surely over. Nope, Janis gets behind his corner again, and Rodgers doesn’t totally underthrow him. Season saved….. for another play.

I’ve been tired of those tag-lines for a long time. And I’m still tired of it. Anytime there’s been a pass to Janis that has gone incomplete, everyone assumes there was a mistake made and that it was Janis “running the wrong route”.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis (83) makes a catch for a touchdown as Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) defends during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis (83) makes a catch for a touchdown as Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) defends during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Number one, what people fail to realize is that even with the thousands of reps Rodgers has had with Nelson and Randall Cobb, they still have their fair share of “miscommunications“. We’ve seen it, and heard it. But for some reason, fans and Rodgers forget about those, yet if it happens with Janis, it’s all pinned on Janis.

Last year in the overtime NFC Championship game loss to Seattle, in which the Packers should have won by a lot, Rodgers threw two costly interceptions.

One was the deep pass to Davante Adams on Richard Sherman in which Rodgers thought he had a free play. And he should have had a free play as Michael Bennett was offsides. But Adams has never caught a bomb in the NFL, and why try it against the best deep CB-cover guy, Richard Sherman? I’m not sure why Adams is so overrated, depended on like he’s Julio Jones or Antonio Brown.

Secondly, it was this second interception that was inexcusable. It came after a nice 23-yard gain to Nelson that put the Packers in field goal range already, at the Seattle 33-yard line in a 16-0 game at the time midway through the second quarter. This game should have been a blowout as great as the Packers defense was for 55 minutes.

It was a simple, basic short pass to the left/middle of the field and the throw went right to Seattle DB Byron Maxwell for a gift interception and season-saving play for Seattle. Both Cobb and Nelson were on the left side, each wide open.

It wasn’t a great play or great read by Maxwell. It was a simple miscommunication between Rodgers and Randall Cobb. A simple pitch & catch that middle-schoolers could complete.

Where was the criticism at Cobb? Or at Rodgers? Nowhere, but there should have been. It was 100% unforced. It was a turnover. And it was on a first down, in field goal range.
Had it been Janis, there would have been. Why not Cobb, who had five seasons under his belt already and was a second round draft pick?

Because sometimes there are options within routes, and it’s up to the receiver and the quarterback to see it the same, be on the same page, and make the little adjustment to get to the open spot.

As I said earlier, Cobb and Nelson had thousands of reps already with Rodgers, including in games. If that happens with Cobb on such a simple play as this, and has it happened at times with Nelson, then why is everyone so hard on Janis.

In addition to that, Janis has been open deep, behind the coverage, at least a handful of times and Rodgers has mostly underthrown him, and last night overthrew him once out of the back of the end zone, and underthrew him another time in which a defensive pass interference could have been called.

You cannot teach speed like this. As much as I love James Jones, and I know Adams was a precious, premium 2nd round draft pick, but Janis has to play ahead of Adams. Jones probably will have to call it a career.

I know there was a deep one midway through this year up the left sideline where it looked like Janis didn’t make a good effort or adjustment to go up and get the ball. But like I said, we’ve seen that from Cobb and Nelson, and of course Davante Adams has made dozens of big mistakes, from wrong routes to stopping routes to dropped passes.

Why wasn’t Janis getting the same opportunities? Draft status? Small school? Not buddies with Aaron?

He possesses the same speed and size, jumping ability as Nelson does. That cannot be ignored. And it wasn’t last night on the 4th down conversion and on the two touchdowns, including the game-tying (should have been game-winning) Hail Mary catch against All-Pro Patrick Peterson.

Janis needed all of his 6’3″ to make this catch on Peterson. A 5′ 11″ WR like Abbrederis or Cobb wouldn’t have been able to go up and snatch that.

Next season, or actually this training camp, we should see Janis out there getting plenty of reps with Rodgers and the number one offense. Right?

Don’t bet on it.

This one came at a big point in time when the Chargers were threatening to beat the 5-0 Packers. Rodgers has had a hard time connecting deep with open Janis, here he’s able to flip him a ball 6 yards away and let Janis’ speed do the rest.

Again, this was not Rodgers, but Tolzien. On 4th down, obvious passing down, Janis gets a step on the corner and the safety is unable to get over in time. Touchdown.

You can’t teach this speed. All it takes is a good pass, boom quick points. This was from Scott Tolzien, not Rodgers. Aaron has had trouble connecting with Janis when he gets a step on the defender, usually underthrowing Janis.

McCarthy should have bet season on 2-point conversion, not on overtime

January 17, 2016 by  
Filed under News

From ESPN.com

~McCarthy’s mistake

The irony, of course, is that they’re advancing at the expense of the Packers and coach Mike McCarthy, who leaves the postseason in the wake of another game management blunder. Last year, it was McCarthy’s hyper-conservative decision-making early in the game which cost the Packers critical points they would need later in the contest.

This year, it was not going for two after the Hail Mary. Kickers hit 94.2 percent of their extra points this year; that figure rose to 97.6 percent indoors, and Crosby was 36-for-36 this year, so let’s just be kind and say that Crosby’s going to tie the game 98 percent of the time. (Vikings fans will tell you that no kick is automatic.) So 2 percent of the time, the Packers lose without ever getting to overtime.

If the Packers do go to overtime, they’re going to be underdogs. The Cardinals were seven-point favorites heading into the contest; after taking out the vig, the implied odds from the Vegas money line suggested that the Packers had a 26 percent chance of winning the game. Green Bay had certainly played better than they had during Arizona’s regular-season blowout in the previous matchup, but they had lost Randall Cobb and needed two Hail Mary completions to tie the game.

It’s almost always better for the underdog to try to turn the game into a shorter contest. Taken to an extreme, if you’re playing Steph Curry one-on-one and you start with the ball, it’s better to play to one than 11, because you might fire off a jumper and get lucky, but you’re not going to hit 11 shots over Steph without giving him the ball.

Even an aggressive estimate would suggest that the Packers had, say, a 40 percent chance of winning the game if it went into overtime. Factor in the aforementioned possibility of a missed Crosby extra point and you’re down to a 39 percent shot if you kick the extra point. The chances of the Packers converting their two-pointer are almost definitely better than 39 percent. The league has converted 48.1 percent of its attempts over the past three years, with the Packers going 5-for-9. Give the Cardinals credit for a tough defense and take into consideration that the Packers don’t have a great running game. You’re still going to find it difficult to come up with a scenario in which the chances of winning the game heading into overtime are better than converting a two-pointer.

Sure he would have been second-guessed had he elected to go for 2 and they failed, but his defense failed in overtime again, as expected based on recent history. Two yards, coming off a miracle two previous plays, with the MVP at QB, he should have bet the season on that, not on overtime. And I said that minutes before the Packers defense even held Arizona to the field goal to keep it at a seven-point game. No, I didn’t really anticipate the Packers would pull off another Hail Mary at the end. But I was preparing and decided that was our best bet. McCarthy either bet wrong, or he didn’t plan ahead. I like McCarthy and think he’s an above average coach and should be retained. I admit I was dead against his hiring back in 2006, but he’s proven me wrong. Still, he could use help, and I believe that some of these heartbreak losses could have gone the other way with the right help. One play has made a season of difference.

And if you really want, pretend for a moment that the percentages are tied. There’s also the small matter of the M-word. If you believe that momentum is a meaningful concept in terms of how teams win and lose football games — and I am admittedly skeptical — why would you ever let the game slip into overtime? Having knocked the Cardinals onto the ropes with one of the more stunning sequences in playoff history and with a minute to figure out which play you wanted to run while referees reviewed the touchdown, why wouldn’t McCarthy think that his chances of winning the game were better with one immediate play?

All things weren’t equal, and that included Arizona’s coaching advantage. McCarthy played it safe yet again, and it ended up costing his team another postseason in the prime of the 32-year-old Rodgers’ career. He coached to put off losing as long as possible. Arians coached to win, and while it raised some eyebrows and nearly cost his team the victory, he made far more defensible decisions than his counterpart.

McCarthy’s choice was safer and attracted far less attention, but that doesn’t make his decision the correct one. Instead of going by the book, McCarthy could take a page out of Arians’. A lot of coaches should.

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