The best thing to happen to the Packers receiving corps heading into 2016 figures to be the expected return of Jordy Nelson from a torn ACL.
Further injuries may have opened the door for Jeff Janis to have a say — and a significant role — in the offense as well.
Janis had two receptions all season before Randall Cobb got hurt in last weekend’s divisional playoff game. Because Ty Montgomery and Davante Adams were already out, Janis got his chance.
He delivered seven catches for 145 yards, including a 41-yard Hail Mary that sent the game to overtime. After penalties, he delivered two catches for 101 yards on the final drive of the regulation.
Those previous two catches totaled 79 yards, a sign that Janis can stretch the field. Without Nelson, that’s an element the Packers were missing in 2015. Aaron Rodgers averaged 7.1 yards per attempt, the lowest of his career, and 11.0 yards per completion, his lowest since becoming the starter.
Janis was active for all 16 games and returned 14 kickoffs, but he didn’t make enough catches to earn a priority spot in the wide receiver rotation.
“As a receiver, he was inconsistent, had some chances, up-and-down,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy told reporters. “But with that, I think he definitely learned from those experiences and just had a tremendous game against Arizona.”
Now, the 6-foot-3 Janis certainly has earned at least a longer look. He played in just three games as a seventh-round rookie in 2014 and needed the final game of his second season to really make a splash. Counting two years of preseason work, his limited regular season duty and last weekend’s game, Janis has 23 catches in a Packers uniform and seven of them have gone for touchdowns. That’s not a bad way to stay in the plans.
Veteran James Jones, who returned to the Packers after Nelson’s injury, can be a free agent. Even with Cobb and Nelson figuring to return as the starters, Janis figures to have a shot to make more big plays.
“When you actually get out there and get reps and make some catches, make some plays, yeah, it reminds you of college again,” Janis said. “I can play out here.”