GREEN BAY—Earlier in training camp, Mike McCarthy noted that Jeff Janis was making a big play almost every day he was on the field.
Janis almost did the same in the preseason games.
A seventh-round draft pick and Division II receiver from Saginaw Valley State, Janis concluded a strong bid for a roster spot with a couple more eye-catching moments on Thursday in the preseason finale against Kansas City.
Janis hauled in a 33-yard touchdown pass from Scott Tolzien on fourth down in the second quarter – his second TD in three preseason contests – and added a 62-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter in the Packers’ 34-14 victory at Lambeau Field.
Now he and all of the other players on the bubble play the waiting game until roster cuts are due at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Janis is the first to admit he still has plenty to work on, and plenty of trust to earn from starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but it’s hard to imagine his breakaway speed and playmaking ability the past three weeks not making a strong impression on the decision-makers.
“I knew this game I had to showcase a little bit more,” said Janis, who also was sure-handed on three punt returns, averaging a solid 8.7 yards. “I think there’s still a lot more I need to prove, but I think I’ve shown what I can do and I think it’s going to be encouraging for the coaches.”
Outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott was encouraged, too, but also not satisfied despite notching his fifth preseason sack. That came one play after drawing a holding penalty on Chiefs starting right tackle Donald Stephenson. Those back-to-back snaps may have been the best evidence yet that Elliott, undrafted from Toledo, belongs.
“I definitely came a long way, thanks to Coach (Winston) Moss and the veteran guys around here, especially Andy Mulumba,” Elliott said. “He’s stuck with me since day one, helping me get my pass-rush technique down and what to look for out there.”
Elliott came out of the game briefly with an injury but returned. He talked about wanting to be more productive against the run and set the edge better, but there’s a higher premium placed on rushing the passer, and he showed that skill time and time again.
“Hopefully it was enough to get me a chance to wear that ‘G’ again,” he said.
Others on the bubble who appeared to help themselves were safety Chris Banjo, offensive lineman Garth Gerhart and cornerback Jumal Rolle.
Banjo continued his work as a special-teams dynamo who packs a punch as a tackler, and he may force the Packers to keep a fifth safety. Gerhart, normally a center, played guard on the No. 2 offensive line during a productive first half, showing some versatility in a bid to be center Corey Linsley’s top backup until JC Tretter’s return from injury.
A practice-squad holdover like Gerhart, Rolle finished a strong camp with a big play that didn’t count, though that wasn’t his fault. Running stride for stride with Chiefs receiver Mark Harrison on a deep ball, Rolle played the pass perfectly and intercepted it, but the turnover was wiped out by a roughing-the-passer call on Mulumba.
“It definitely looks good on film,” said Rolle, trying to make the Packers think about keeping a sixth corner.
His night had its flaws, as running back Joe McKnight got behind him on a wheel route for a 36-yard touchdown that was called back because McKnight stepped out of bounds. Rolle also was flagged for two penalties on special teams.
But such is the life of the players battling for the last few roster spots. Nobody’s perfect, or they wouldn’t be teetering on the edge.
“I would say this training camp I didn’t overthink anything,” Rolle said. “Just focused on football and kept my confidence throughout the tough times.”
As for those certain to make the team, a couple of rookies in Linsley and receiver Davante Adams showed up well in the final regular-season tune-up.
Linsley handled all of the snaps with quarterback Matt Flynn through the first quarter and then took a rest along with the other offensive starters. In a week, Linsley will be helping to direct the Packers’ no-huddle in the deafening din of Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, and Flynn gave his vote of confidence.
“Corey did good. Corey’s going to be all right,” Flynn said. “He’s played center all his life, strong kid. He’s going to have good people around him. Two guards, one MVP quarterback behind him. He’s going to be fine.”
Adams also made his biggest splash of the preseason, catching a 22-yard TD pass over the middle from Flynn to begin the scoring on Thursday.
Flynn called it a “read route,” and Adams ran right to the open spot and made the easy catch in stride. The second round draft pick from Fresno State had found the end zone once previously in the preseason, for a two-point conversion, so this was much more meaningful.
“First Lambeau Leap, and I had so much adrenaline, I was just making sure I didn’t jump up into the box seats, because I was feeling it,” Adams said. “It was a good feeling.
“I feel ready. We’ve been taking steps all throughout training camp, putting the pieces together, and I feel like I’m ready. Tonight I felt more comfortable out there, so I’m ready for this next week.”
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