GREEN BAY - In the case of Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis, hindsight paints a painful picture.
Two weeks ago, against the Indianapolis Colts, Janis created separation down the left sideline. His quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, threw a perfect pass that hit him in the hands…and the facemask…and the hands once more before falling incomplete.
Cruel though it may be, the failed reception is quintessential Janis, even as the former Division II star traverses his third season in the pros. His physical attributes are still impressive, which is why the Packers carved out a large role for him on special teams and tried to have him stretch the field on offense, but the primary task ascribed to his primary position remains difficult for Janis. Put simply, he still struggles to catch.
The latest drop produced a ripple effect over the last two weeks. Janis played only 10 snaps from scrimmage against the Tennessee Titans and was limited to two Sunday night against Washington. His presence within the offense vanished.
But here’s the alarming part for Janis: His performance on special teams has regressed as well.
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“I knew that was going to be one of your first questions,” special teams coordinator Ron Zook said Monday afternoon.
Janis reached his nadir in the third quarter of what ended as a lopsided loss. Washington, having tacked on a 37-yard field goal to increase its lead, kicked deep with Janis and fellow receiver Ty Montgomery back to return.
The ball hung in the air on a windy night, and Janis appeared uncertain about whether to make the catch or let it bounce in the end zone for a touchback. When the ball fell short of the end zone, landing just before the goal line, Janis was officially stuck. He could not scoop the ball cleanly and was bailed out by tight end Richard Rodgers, who alertly covered at the Packers’ 2-yard line.
“You’re exactly right, what was he doing?” Zook said. “Get on the ball! Get on the ball! But I think it kind of shocked him and once again, those are things we’ve got to keep building on and getting better.
“And then what happened is we’ve got a signal, which he did not give, and everybody saw where he was and they just assumed we weren’t coming out, so they slowed down a little bit and that’s what allowed the people to get down there fast. Thank god Richard was down there and got on the football.”
Because of the blunder, the Packers began the drive at their own 2-yard line. Nine plays later, kicker Mason Crosby missed a 36-yard field goal wide left.
“The flags were going perpendicular down the stadium and the ball was going to the right,” Zook said of the wind. “Anytime they turned a little bit the balls were carrying to the left going the other way, the direction we kicked the field goal. Those are the elements, that’s what makes football what it is.”
Unfortunately for Janis, the muffed kick was not his only special-teams mistake.
Janis was juked badly by Washington punt returner Jamison Crowder on a runback along the sideline that gained 8 yards. He also failed to sustain a block on a kickoff return by Montgomery that gained only 14 yards. Janis’ man, running back Mack Brown, made the first hit on Montgomery before two other players brought him down.
“We’ve got to learn from those things,” Zook said. “You can’t let those things happen.”