4 Downs with Dougherty: Janis excels

Pete Dougherty
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Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis (83) tackles Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Lucky Whitehead (13) on a punt return at Lambeau Field December 13, 2015.

Every week I'll share four quick thoughts the day after the Green Bay Packers' game. Here they are after the Packers' 28-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night:

First down: As my colleague Wes Hodkiewicz said to me during the game, no matter how Jeff Janis’ career as a receiver plays out, he’s going to have a job for several more years as a gunner covering  punts in the NFL. Janis has improved dramatically in that role as the season has gone on and had his best game Sunday. He made three tackles (two unassisted) for a total of minus-6 yards in punt coverage, and on all three he beat the outside jam, outran all blockers and made the tackle just after return man Lucky Whitehead caught the ball. The last Packers player to make the Pro Bowl as a special teams cover man was Travis Jervey in 1997. If Janis keeps this up – he’s on the kickoff cover team as well – by next season he could be in the running.

Second down: Maybe it was specific to the game plan for Dallas, but with coach Mike McCarthy calling plays Sunday, fullback John Kuhn had a much bigger role in the Packers’ offense. The Packers played much of the game with a personnel group consisting of three receivers (usually Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and James Jones) along with Kuhn and one of the two halfbacks (Eddie Lacy or James Starks). One reason might be that Kuhn is a much better blocker than any of the Packers’ tight ends, including starter Richard Rodgers. McCarthy also dialed up Kuhn on a screen pass that picked up 14 yards. We’ll see going forward whether Kuhn’s extensive playing time was a one-game plan, or something McCarthy wants to use more as the new play caller.

Third down: Outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott has been in and out of the playing rotation all year – more out than in recently – but he again flashed some pass-rush ability when he was back in the rotation Sunday. Granted, Elliott’s fourth-quarter sack of Cowboys quarterback Matt Cassel came in the final two minutes of the game, when the Packers were up by three touchdowns and the Cowboys were in hurry-up passing mode. But whatever his shortcomings defending the run, he has three sacks on the season in limited playing time.

Fourth down: Defensive coordinator Dom Capers has a lot of faith in cornerback Sam Shields as well as a good understanding of Matt Cassel’s limitations as a quarterback. Until Shields left the game because of a concussion about halfway through the second quarter, he matched up against the Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, often without help over the top. If Tony Romo had been playing for the Cowboys, Romo would have been throwing to him down after down, or else Capers would have had to provide Shields more help. But Cassel just doesn’t have the arm talent to exploit Bryant in one-on-one matchups. Bryant, who finished with only one catch for nine yards, didn’t help. He had at least two drops, including one on an out pattern when he jumped even though the pass was at his midsection. and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.

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