ST. LOUIS—The Rams didn’t appear to know how fast Jeff Janis is.
The Packers’ rookie seventh-round wide receiver clued them in late in the third quarter on Saturday, catching a short pass from quarterback Matt Flynn, slipping one tackle, turning the corner and outrunning the Rams defense to the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown.
The impressive burst helped the Packers to a 21-7 preseason victory at the Edward Jones Dome and announced Janis as a player with NFL talent despite his Division II pedigree.
“That’s why I call him V-12,” said fellow rookie receiver Davante Adams, who followed up Janis’ TD with a catch on a slant pass for the 2-point conversion. “Anytime he catches that little shallow drag route, people take bad angles because they don’t know how that V-12 is going to kick in. But that dude is fast. I’ve known since the combine, so I had the inside scoop.”
Janis, who was making his preseason debut, said the shallow cross was one of his favorite routes at Saginaw Valley State. He acknowledged that opponents probably aren’t aware of his speed and that will work to his advantage early, and it made his favorite route work like a charm.
“I wouldn’t expect it to (work in the NFL), but luckily it did,” he said.
On an afternoon when young receivers Kevin Dorsey and Gerrard Sheppard both missed big-play opportunities, Janis cashed in and would appear to have vaulted himself into the lead for the No. 5 receiver spot, which could be the last one available.
Having missed the first week of camp and needing to catch up, he’s no longer behind any of the other five young wideouts fighting to make the team.
“I think so, but I think there’s still a lot more to be proven,” Janis said. “It was thrown my way only once tonight and I made one play, so there’s a lot more to be done.”
Janis’ big play highlighted what was otherwise an uneven effort from the Packers’ second and third offensive units against the Rams.
Scott Tolzien got the nod as the second quarterback, and his protection faltered early, as backup tackles Derek Sherrod and Aaron Adams both allowed pressures that disrupted plays. A DuJuan Harris fumble also short-circuited one drive.
On Tolzien’s fifth possession, he found a rhythm and moved the offense into first-and-goal, but the unit’s inconsistencies struck again as penalties backed things up. A failed fourth-down pass ended Tolzien’s scoreless night, raising questions as to whether he got any closer to Flynn in the competition for the No. 2 job.
The defense saw a number of reserves flash in their bid to make the team, particularly with the pass rush. The Packers had seven sacks in all, including three by undrafted rookie outside linebacker Jayrone Elliot, who also forced a fumble.
Linebackers Sam Barrington added a sack, as did undrafted rookies Adrian Hubbard and Mike Pennel, a burly defensive lineman making a strong push for a roster spot. Pennel was able to clean up after Mike Neal initially got into the backfield.
The game was plagued by a number of penalties, especially illegal-hands-to-the-face calls on both offensive and defensive linemen, one of the league’s points of emphasis this season. As with the receiver/defensive back contact that is also being emphasized, it remains to be seen whether those penalties will be called as closely once the regular season begins.
Two of the illegal hands calls, on starting left tackle David Bakhtiari and backup center Corey Linsley, nullified touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson and from Tolzien to Myles White, respectively.
“If the rule stays the same, both sides of the ball have some things to work on and change and adapt to,” starting center JC Tretter said. “We’ll see how it goes. It’s a heavily enforced rule clearly by how they’re calling it so far.”
The call on Bakhtiari was the only blemish for the No. 1 offense, which had two series and scored 10 points. Rodgers hit Randall Cobb in the back of the end zone to finish off the opening drive, and Mason Crosby added a field goal after the Nelson TD was called back.
“It would have been nice to get that other touchdown on the board and make it 2-for-2, but it’s a good step,” said Nelson. “We’ll take another one next week.”
Nelson got his first preseason action but did not catch a pass. Running back Eddie Lacy also made his preseason debut and quickly racked up 47 yards from scrimmage on his one drive, with five carries for 25 yards and two receptions for 22 more.
Lacy took his first carry of the game for 13 yards and then got bogged down a bit on his rushes near the goal line, but he said everything felt “smooth.”
“I actually felt as though we were all on the same page,” Lacy said. “The timing was great. I was able to make the cut whether it was inside or outside. Even though I didn’t play last week, I felt like I picked up where I left off.” Additional gameday coverage -