Veteran Jeff Janis, who is once again battling for a spot on the 53-man roster, helped his cause last Thursday night by catching a touchdown pass against the Eagles. He got more good news 36 hours later when the Packers re-signed Brett Goode.
How is signing a long snapper good news for a wide receiver? When the long snapper is all but useless on punt coverage and the wide receiver happens to be one of the best gunners in the National Football League. Goode hasn’t made a tackle since 2013. Lacking size and speed, he often gets pushed back 3 to 5 yards at the line of scrimmage, and even when he gets away OK, he moves down the field like an arthritic turtle.
With Goode a non-factor on returns, Janis is even more important than the average gunner. His size, speed and willingness to throw his body around make him perfect for the job, and he was a big reason the Packers finished first in coverage in 2015 despite having a punter (Tim Masthay) the team couldn’t wait to dump.
In the video below from last October, watch how quickly Janis gets down the field to force a fair catch after a 32-yard punt from Jake Schum. And it’s not like I had to spend hours looking for this play. Poor punts and great coverage by Janis have gone together for the past three seasons like brats and beer. (By the way, did you also notice how Justin Perillo (#80) looks like Usain Bolt as he runs lumbers away from Goode?)
Finding a place for Janis on the 53 might mean having to let go of a younger player with more potential on offense, but that would be a relatively small price to pay. The Packers are looking to win another Lombardi Trophy this season, and achieving that goal will be a lot easier with a Pro Bowl caliber gunner on the roster as opposed to a decent long-term prospect like DeAngelo Yancey, Malachi Dupre or Max McCaffrey.
There are only two scenarios in which it would make sense to release Janis. One would be if another player emerges as an equal on special teams. That seems unlikely, especially with Demetri Goodson still rehabbing from knee surgery. He had been the team’s second-best gunner prior to his injury. The other would be if one of the young wide receivers proves to be too good to risk placing on waivers. That also seems unlikely. While Yancey, Dupre and McCaffrey have flashed at times, none has been too good to cut so far.
One more thing about Janis. I’m well aware of his limitations as a wide receiver – my analysis from three summers ago has proven to be spot on – but a more creative coaching staff would be able to find ways to use the former Saginaw Valley State star on offense. A player with his physical skills and lack of fear of getting hit over the middle should be able to at least contribute on the occasional end around or bubble screen.
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