Jeff Janis hopes momentum can carry over into next season
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.
“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.”
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