Remember the Cardinals playoff game where Jeff Janis had 2 catches for 101 yards on the last drive to send the game to overtime? Remember how that was supposed to be his breakout performance that launched him into stardom?
Well, last year, he had 93 yards… not on one drive, not in one game, but for the season. Granted, that was an improvement over the 79 yard season the year before, which was an improvement over the 16 yards he had in 2014 as a rookie. Percentage-wise, he’s actually been on quite a trajectory. Unfortunately, that trajectory would see him celebrate his 40th birthday before he became a 1,000 yard receiver. Yay, stats!
Last year, even when other receivers were injured last year, he failed to step up, losing ground to rookie draft pick Trevor Davis and rookie undrafted free agent Geronimo Allison, who will enter camp firmly entrenched as the number 4 receiver on a depth chart that has historically only been five or six deep.
Given that the Packers selected wide receivers DeAngelo Yancey in the 4th round and Malachi Dupre in the 7th round, they don’t seem like they’re banking on JJ. Yancey fits the physical characteristics the Packers look for in wide receivers and Dupre made impressive plays on film (even if the film was wildly inconsistent). Both were third day picks, not premium rounds, but that’s where Janis himself originally came from. Michael Clark and Montay Crockett are two receivers who signed with the team as undrafted free agents, making the room that much more crowded for Janis to battle his way onto the roster for another year.
After an uninspiring 2016 preseason, Janis seemed to make last year’s team more off his special teams work. In 2015, he turned in one of the most dominant punt gunner seasons of all time. Last year? Not so much. Maybe he was spending more time trying to be a receiver and didn’t concentrate on special teams as much. Maybe he was frustrated being relegated to special teams again and didn’t have his heart in it.
Whatever the reason, it doesn’t look like he’s going to make it as a gunner alone if this year’s preseason performance looks like last year. Make no mistake about it: there’s not a receiver on the team with his speed, size, and athleticism, but playing football isn’t about being big, fast, and athletic (though it helps a long), it’s about doing your job. As a receiver, that means running the right route correctly and making your adjustments properly without so much as a sideways glance from your quarterback.
And if your quarterback happens to be Aaron Charles Rodgers, you better run the right route perfectly and make your adjustments perfectly and you better be where he expects you to be even if he expects you to be somewhere you’re not actually supposed to be.
Fair? Maybe not, but that’s what happens when you you’re the greatest. That’s why slower, smaller, less athletic receivers like Greg Jennings can be a Pro Bowler in Green Bay and totally useless everywhere else. On the flip side, Janis may flourish playing with a less talented, but less specific quarterback like Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson or Jay Cutler where he can can just run around and say “hit me.”
But that’s not how we play football in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The competition for a roster spot at receiver is tight and with shiny new free agent tight ends to take catches and a wide receiver starting at running back, it’s even harder than it looks at first glance.
Unless the mental part of his game makes an unprecedented jump or his punt gunning gets back to all-world standards (or a bevy of injuries at one position… but that almost never happens), our buddy Jeff may have a tough time starting the season somewhere other than Minnesota.