Jeff Janis developing into No. 1 'gunner'

Ryan Wood
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Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis (83) celebrates his special teams tackle against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field.

Jeff Janis is fast. This is no secret. He’s also big and tall and strong. The Green Bay Packers receiver’s raw athletic skills are impressive, even if he hasn’t had much chance to flash those attributes as a receiver.

There is a position where Janis has unleashed his speed, strength and size. When the Packers’ offense jogs over to the sideline after a failed third down, that’s when Janis shines.

Turns out, the former seventh-round receiver is a potentially excellent “gunner” covering punts.

“He continues to get better and get better,” special teams coordinator Ron Zook said.

Like Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. Janis sprinted downfield and tackled punt returner Lucky Whitehead for a 2-yard loss not once, not twice, but three times. For a gunner, it was a dominant special teams performance.

At one point, the Cowboys had to start double-team blocking Janis.

“He timed it up,” Zook said. “I was a little concerned on a couple of them because I saw the ball, I saw him, and you try to judge him coming. He’s starting to feel his strength and his speed.

“I’ll tell you something: He’s going to be tested this week. They do a great job on the gunners, just watching Oakland. It’ll be a test for him.”

Janis has handled almost every test in the game’s third phase this season. He’s arguably been the Packers’ best special teams player, leading the team with 10 tackles in 12 games. His 5.5 overall grade from Pro Football Focus is third-highest on the team, behind kicker Mason Crosby (13.5) and punt returner Micah Hyde (7).

His ascension hasn’t led to consistent playing time in quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ offense. Janis had just two offensive snaps against the Cowboys, just four the previous week at the Detroit Lions. He’s finding a way to make plays anyway.

“Obviously, he’s an athletic guy that wants to play,” Zook said, “wants to compete. He knows the best chance of being on the field right now is with the special teams. He’s able to use his speed and acceleration and strength. The guy’s very athletic and he’s very powerful.

“He continues to get better. He learns from his mistakes. A lot of things are new to him but he keeps getting better. To me, that’s exciting. Every experience he gets is a learning experience and he learns from it.” and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood

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