The Green Bay Packers already have the best offense in the NFL with the best quarterback in the league, perhaps the best wide receiver duo, an offensive line playing out of its mind and a bull at running back. The Packers rank first in the NFL averaging 32.5 points per game and are first in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA, which measures offensive efficiency. So how can the Packers possibly get much better on offense?
Everybody loves Dujuan Harris’ story about where he came from, but the truth is he has been brutal returning kicks this year. I feel like him just getting it back to the 20-yard line is a win. The stats back that up, as Green Bay is 31st in the NFL in kickoff return average (20.3). The blocking can certainly be better, but the diminutive Harris just doesn’t have the size, burst, or explosiveness to be a good kickoff returner. Often times his decision making on when to bring out kicks from the end zone has seemed poor too. Can anyone even remember a big kickoff return this year?
The Packers do have a guy on the roster who has big potential in returning kicks in Jeff Janis. Janis has long strides to be able to get up the field quickly, can outrun angles and overall is a much more explosive athlete than Harris. Janis got a shot in the preseason, but nothing since even with Harris’ and the unit’s struggles.
The Packers have been much more proactive in making changes this season. They have benched Jarrett Boykin for Davante Adams, benched A.J. Hawk for Sam Barrington and moved Clay Matthews to inside linebacker. It’s time for one more. Kickoff returns have been an issue for a few years in Green Bay now, but they have never had a guy like Janis who doesn’t play a role on offense and has skills perfectly suited to do the job.
It can be argued that Janis should be more involved on offense too, but why fix what isn’t broken there right now. One of the Packers’ concerns with giving Janis a shot might be because of what happened with Jeremy Ross in 2012. The Packers gave Ross a shot at returns late in the 2012 season and it paid immediate dividends. However, he had a huge fumble in San Francisco in the Divisional Round playoff game that really turned the momentum in that game.
Harris is certainly not explosive, but he is reliable in the fact that he is a running back and has good ball security. That might be all the Packers are looking for from their kick returner. However, imagine how much better the offense could be if they didn’t have to drive a long field after every kickoff.——————