Tha Sports Junkies 101

The Curious Case Of Jeff Janis

Kyle Engmann via Wikimedia Commons


When starting wide receiver Jordy Nelson was lost to an ACL tear last pre-season, it created a movement and a fan club among Packer fans so passionate it puts Justin Bieber’s to shame. The man at the center is Jeff Janis.

Janis is a guy who has spent most of his career fighting against the odds. He was not highly recruited out of high school and ended up at Saginaw Valley, a small college in Michigan. There he excelled with over 4,000 yards receiving and 46 TDs but still faced an uphill climb of doubters.

Just as there is a stigma in regards to black quarterbacks, there is too a stigma when it comes to white receivers. It’s difficult for a white receiver to break the mold set by various guys over the years such as Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, who are seen as dependable yet nonthreatening down the field. In other words, they lack the speed and athleticism to create separation down the field.

Janis did his best to shake the critics with his uncanny physical ability at the NFL draft combine. He recorded a 4.42 40-yard dash and was in the 92nd percentile or better in the 10-yard split, the three-cone drill and the shuttle, per Mock Draftable.

The Packers, who are no strangers to mold breaking receivers, snatched up Janis in the 7th round. The comparisons between Janis and Jordy Nelson immediately began. Nelson too had to break the mold Janis was set up to fight.

Like Nelson when he first started, Janis‘ role was more of a return, special teams type of player.

Janis came into training camp his rookie season and made an impact immediately as he recorded the fastest 40-yard dash time on the entire team. He would earn a nickname around Green Bay as Mr. August for his knack of scoring pre-season TD’s both his rookie season and last year.

Despite the fact that he saw little to no regular season playing time his rookie year the people still got behind him.

During the off-season last year there was a buzz about the young receiver. The word was that he had worked his way into the conversation for the 4th or 5th receiver spot behind Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams.

However, everything changed with Nelson’s injury.

The Packers offense struggled greatly without the threat of Nelson’s big play potential. There was constant unrest in the fan-base over head coach Mike McCarthy’s refusal to put Janis on the field.

Green Bay fans saw Jordy in Janis’ game and that was surely a driving force in the emotional connection garnered for him. Everyone loved Jordy, and when they looked at Janis‘ size and speed they believed they were seeing Nelson.

However, McCarthy made it clear many times that it was Janis‘ poor practices and lack of route running holding him back. The Packers offense relies mostly on timing patterns and quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn’t take well to his guys being out of place.

Janis’ role was to be primarily a special teams expert, a role that he succeeded in. He was able to translate his speed and athleticism into being one of the best gunners in the league. A bad punting season last year for the Packers meant his play-making was even more valuable as he ranked 2nd on the team with 15 tackles on special teams and saved numerous big plays for the opposition.

His speed also aided in earning him opportunities in the kick return game last year. Janis posted a 29.0-yard average on 14 kickoff returns, including three of 45-plus yards and a long of 70 (via

Every week Janis seemed to make plays on special teams with his speed as fans watched a Packers offense fail to move the ball because of a lack of speed. He had become a rallying cry for frustrated cheeseheads everywhere.

It seemed that no matter the issue it would always come back to Janis. If there was frustration over play-calling, just put in Janis. If Davante Adams dropped a pass, put in Janis. If Rodgers laid out a deep ball and no one could catch up to it, you guessed it, Janis could’ve.

Despite what fans may think they know, McCarthy was still the guy at practice everyday. If the play-caller and QB don’t trust a weapon, it’s imperative that they holster it until they can control it.

Of course the thing about a weapon like Janis is that when it’s on target it’s a kill-shot. This was evident in the NFC Divisional Round when Janis was able to harness his skills into one incredible 4th quarter and add another layer to his legend.

With an injury to Randall Cobb early in the game McCarthy was given no choice but to play Janis with an already beat up receiving group. In an ironic twist the Packers season, for a few moments, was quite literally in his hands.

Janis was finally given a chance to let loose. If a guy like Janis can’t run a proper route a simple solution is to just send him deep on every play. This formula created success when it needed to.

First, it was a 4th and long from the one that Rodgers launched over 60 yards to a sprinting Janis wide open downfield. And then, it was a Hail Mary as time expired over the Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson to tie the game and send it to OT. He would end the game with 7 catches for 145 yards and 2 TDs (via ESPN).

Unfortunately, Larry Fitzgerald would create his own moment seconds into overtime and effectively end the Packers season, but that didn’t negate the play that Janis had made.

With his statement game and statement catch to lean on he went into this off-season looking to make a move for a wide open number three receiver race. With only four regular season catches to his name he is essentially still working as a rookie.

The negatives that have held him back in the past once again resurfaced during this years training camp. Dropped passes, incorrect routes, and most importantly struggling to get on the same page as Rodgers all were evident. All those problems were overshadowed last Wednesday by even worse news.

A teammate’s injury ultimately gave him a platform to succeed, but now an injury seems to have impeded his progress. On August 10th , Janis suffered a broken hand that required surgery and will make him miss 4-6 weeks of practice time.

Janis came into camp fighting for third string but this injury puts him at risk of not even making the week 1 roster.

Whether they send him to the practice squad, waive him entirely, or wait it out and see if he can turn it around his Janis Fan Club will be in his corner.