Last week the Jeff Janis train came to a crashing halt as the wide receiver fractured his right hand during a ball security drill in camp. While Janis has been more of a meme than a major contributor to the Green Bay Packers during the past two seasons, it was hoped that 2016 would be a break-out training camp for the wide receiver.
All indications in training camp, however, had been that Janis was still struggling to “click” into place in the offense. It is unclear whether the he’s struggling with the playbook, the offensive scheme itself, route running, NFL playing speed, or all of the above. What is certain, however, is that Janis has been unable to translate his undeniable speed and athleticism into actual success on the field. Now Janis is expected to be out at least four to six weeks, effectively ending his camp and preseason. If anyone needed the reps, it was Janis.
The Packers are not lacking for depth at wide receiver, and thus some think that it is time for the Packers to give up on the former Division II star. That’s a decision for Packers GM Ted Thompson and his coaching staff.
While Janis has yet to put his game together on the offensive side of the ball (save for a few plays against the Arizona Cardinals in the 2015 playoffs), he has certainly been an important contributor on special teams, both as a return man and as a cover man on kick and punt returns. The question will be whether the Packers think that Janis will eventually be able to transcend his special teams role and develop into a true receiving threat. If not, younger players like Geronimo Allison may be more worthy of a roster spot.
If the Packers do decide to keep Janis, however, they shouldn’t immediately send him to injured reserve. Given the time-table of Janis’ injury, he could return anywhere from as late as Week 3 of the regular season to perhaps as early as before Week 1. If the team decides that Janis still has a place as a special teams contributor in their gameplan, ending his season when he will miss, at most, two or three games, seems unnecessary. The Packers can keep Janis on the 53 man roster and activate him when he’s ready to return. If Janis were to miss one or two games mid-season, few would suggest placing him on IR.
Some have claimed that Janis should be stashed on IR and then brought back as the Packers’ one returnable player. In 2016, the rules have changed. Players no longer need to pre-designate a player to return. They may simply reactivate a player from their IR list at any point during the season.
However, the team can only reactivate one player. The one constant in the NFL is injuries. Planning on bringing Janis back may be foolhardy since it would only be a matter of time before someone more important to the team finds themselves out with a long-term injury. If the Packers had already used their one return on Janis, that player would be unavailable for the rest of the season if placed on IR. If the Packers place Janis on IR and someone more important to the team is injured in the meantime, Janis’ season is over even if he’s ready to suit up in, say, Week 2 or 3.
If the Packers are committed to Janis (and that’s a big ‘if’), they shouldn’t send him to IR unless his injury looks to be more significant than what has already been reported. There’s little gained by ending Janis’ season or by making him the one player that they bring back. If the Packers are losing faith in Janis, placing him on IR and not bringing him back virtually keeps Janis out of football for an entire season which is only going to be a further set back for a player that is already struggling. The Packers have a major decision to make with Janis, but IR may not be the best solution no matter which way Thompson and Mike McCarthy are leaning in regard to his future with the team.——————
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.