As if the Packers do not have enough holes on their time already that they need to fill this offseason, add Jeff Janis’s special teams production to that list. Last week Friday, Jeff Janis signed with the Cleveland Browns, adding another former member of the Packers to their team. It is safe to say the Browns are becoming the Packers of the AFC with all the former players and personnel men in Cleveland.
The Browns traded for Packers defensive back Damarious Randall earlier this offseason, are run by John Dorsey, a former Packers personnel executive, along with other members of Ted Thompson’s staff, Alonzo Highsmith and Eliot Wolf.
Jeff Janis was a former seventh round draft pick of Ted Thompson’s in 2014, who had tremendous speed but was never able to get on the same page as Aaron Rodgers and make an impact as a wide receiver. Janis did become a cult hero throughout Wisconsin, with many fans calling for him to have more playing time. He greatest moment came during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Arizona Cardinals in January 2016. He caught 7 passes for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns in a remarkable performance by the Packers offense to force overtime. 101 of those 145 yards came on 2 plays – one a 60 yard catch on 4th and 20 and another a 41 yard Hail Mary touchdown as time expired in regulation. Both of those plays were on the Packers final drive of the game to send the game into overtime. Since then Packers fans can hear the announcer scream ‘Janis’ on sports radio stations across the state.
As the team went into the 2015 season, there was anticipation that Janis would take the next step in his career and become a deep threat for Aaron Rodgers. But, Janis was never able to carry over the momentum from the playoff game to make an impact on offense. His biggest impact game on special teams, where he was a gunner on the kick coverage units and became a weapon on that unit for the Packers.
He was able to utilize his speed and size to neutralize punt and kick off returners by often escaping double teams to get to the receiving spot before the returner can make a move. The past season the Packers special teams gave up the 7th least punt return yards (164) and ranked 6th in punt return average (5.7), and Jeff Janis was a big reason way the special teams coverage was so good. It was a bright spot on a team that had a lot of problems.
Don’t get me wrong, the Packers will not miss Janis on offense but the will miss his impact as a gunner on special teams. Football games can be won or lost in any one of the 3 phases and we can easily discredited special teams like we sometimes do, but a good special teams unit can make it easier on both the offense and defense.
GM Brian Gutekunts and Mike McCarthy have options to replace Janis on special teams and they must feel that Trevor Davis, Josh Jones and Demetri Goodson could be capable gunner replacements. Barring them drafting someone who could be a gunner on special teams they may have an in-house replacement. If they don’t succeed, the impact of his departure would be felt. Either way, there are plenty of options to fill Janis’s void.
Anthony Haag is a writer for PackersTalk.com. He has been a Packers fan since the day he was born and truly bleeds green and gold. He makes annual visits to Lambeau Field and has attended his fair share of games. You can follow Anthony on Twitter at @anthony_haag