INDIANAPOLIS – There was good reason Green Bay Packers receiver Jeff Janis was rarely activated during his rookie season.
Janis, a seventh-round pick, impressed coaches enough in the preseason to make Green Bay's 53-man roster. His highlight catches and kickoff returns left an impression with fans, too. Each week, as the inactive streak piled up, his absence was impossible to ignore.
In hindsight, it shouldn't have been a surprise.
The Packers effectively used Janis' rookie season as a redshirt year, patiently allowing time to develop. Entering the NFL from Saginaw Valley State, he needed time to transition from Division II to professional football. Maybe the biggest adjustment, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, was for the 6-foot-3, 219-pound Janis to learn how to play big.
"He's got a big catching radius," McCarthy said. "And he needs to utilize it."
McCarthy expects Janis to "take a big step" through the offseason. The young receiver has all the physical tools. If Janis puts everything together, his potential could turn into something special.
"Obviously, I think we all saw his vertical speed," McCarthy said. "He's an extremely physical young man. He's an Olympian in the weight room. He's got a lot of raw skill, and I look for him to make that jump. He has to use that catching radius, and he has the type of body type you really like."
McCarthy stopped short of saying Janis wasn't ready as a rookie. At times, McCarthy said he "toyed" with the idea of activating Janis as a kickoff returner. Ultimately, he said, Janis couldn't quite crack a 46-man active roster deep enough to present McCarthy weekly challenges.
Next season, McCarthy hopes Janis develops enough to produce on the field. He saw promising signs late in his rookie year.
"Probably after Thanksgiving, I thought Jeff really picked it up," McCarthy said. "He was more comfortable, and so I look for him to take a step. He's got to play with extension. That's the one thing he has to do a better job of, but you can see it on the scout team, and at the end of the year he was running some really good routes."
-- email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood