GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The world met Jeff Janis on Saturday night.
Raise your hand if you knew #Packers had a receiver named Jeff Janis before kick. He had 7 catches 145 yards 2 scores. #CraziestGameEver— Mike Greenberg (@Espngreeny) January 17, 2016
The introduction could have come much earlier had the Green Bay Packers given their fastest receiver a chance when their offense struggled to make plays down the field this season.
You won’t get Janis to say he should have been playing more this season, but after his seven-catch, 145-yard, two-touchdown performance in the NFC divisional playoff loss at Arizona, perhaps it would be stating the obvious.
“I think the biggest thing is it tells me, to myself, that I can play,” Janis said Monday as players cleaned out their lockers. “When you have a confident player, I think that helps. You see some of the premier receivers in the league, they’re confident guys because they know that they’re good. There’s a difference between cocky and confidence. To be able to have that confidence and know that you can make plays, it’s big.”
The same could be said for his quarterback’s confidence in him. Despite his ability to make plays in the preseason -- Janis had five touchdown catches in two exhibition seasons -- he rarely got a chance to do it with Aaron Rodgers. And even when Janis got his shot after Randall Cobb’s chest injury against the Cardinals left the Packers with only three available receivers (James Jones and Jared Abbrederis were the others), it wasn’t perfect. He blew a touchdown in the second quarter when he failed to run a corner route to Rodgers’ specifications.
But for an offense that ranked 25th in passing yards during the regular season and couldn’t stretch the field, it was puzzling that Janis never got a shot. He had just two catches in the regular season, both in Week 6 against the Chargers.
“I wasn’t really that frustrated,” said Janis, a seventh-round pick from Saginaw Valley State in 2014. “I think the coaches know what they’re doing. They’ve been doing it a lot longer than I have. I’ve just got to trust in them and what they want to do with the game plan. When guys get hurt, I’ve got to step up and do what I can.”
Still, there’s no guarantee Janis’ performance will mean an increased role next year. Jordy Nelson appears on track to make a full recovery from his torn ACL, and everyone in the receiver room except for Jones is under contract for next season.
"He's just a young man who needs to play," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after Saturday's game. "He’s got a lot of raw ability."
At least Janis (and perhaps Rodgers and the coaches) now knows he can perform when needed.
“Sometimes in the back of your head, if you’re not getting very many reps, you kind of lose your confidence and think to yourself, ‘I don’t know if I can play at this level,’” Janis said. "When you actually get out there and get reps and make some catches, make some plays, yeah, it reminds you of college again. ‘Man, I can play out here.’”
Two of Janis’ catches were essentially on Hail Mary plays. On the same drive, he caught a 60-yard bomb on fourth-and-20 and the 41-yard touchdown pass as time expired.
Packers fans have clamored for Janis to play more ever since he stood out with two touchdowns in his rookie preseason.
Now, everyone else knows why.
“I don’t think it’s been too different besides maybe a couple more followers on Twitter,” Janis said of his life the past two days. “Really, I mean it’s not that big of a deal. Whatever people want to say I guess is cool, but it was definitely exciting."