After four years of being shackled by the dumbest coach in the NFL, Jeff Janis is moving on to Cleveland. It’s a promising development for all of us – and there are a lot of us – who’ve been awaiting Janis’ chance to spread his wings and soar.
No other front office in the league knows more about Janis’ capabilities. Browns assistant general manager Eliot Wolf was in the Green Bay front office for all of Janis’ four years in Wisconsin. So was Alonzo Highsmith, who was the Packers’ senior personnel executive. He’s now in his first year as the Browns’ vice president of player personnel.
Finally, there’s Browns’ GM John Dorsey, who was in the Packers front office for 13 years, until shortly before Janis arrived in Green Bay. Just think, if the Packers had brought Dorsey back from Kansas City a year or two ago to replace Ted Thompson as GM, as they should have, Dorsey could’ve, should’ve, and probably would’ve ordered Mike McCarthy to play Janis.
I was frankly worried that every other NFL team might have assumed that the great Mike McCarthy, that fabulous judge of player talent, had a valid reason for refusing to play Janis at wide receiver. I figured that would be the case with at least 25 teams, but hoped there were half a dozen that could think for themselves.
I’m still nervous about Cleveland’s plans for Janis, because I could care less how good a special teams player he is. Janis has the tools of a classic WR1 – someone who can outrun and out-juke most defensive backs, and he can out-muscle and out-jump any of those who don’t approach his size, strength, and athleticism.
The Cleveland Situation
Since the Packers now have Cleveland’s starting quarterback from last year, incoming QB Tyrod Taylor is likely to be the starter when the regular season gets underway. The Browns, of course, are sitting pretty with the first and fourth overall draft selections.
Forecasters predict USC QB Sam Darnold will be chosen first overall, and it’s very possible that Penn State running back Saquon Barkley will follow him to Cleveland. If not an instant offensive infusion, at least by 2019 the Browns are likely to be an offensive powerhouse.
Taylor is no slouch. In his previous seven years in Buffalo, he compiled a very respectable 91.2 passer rating. Though he was only a starter the last three years there, his touchdown to interception ratio is a sparkling 51:16. What he has yet to do is pass for big yardage. His average yardage through the air is under 3,000 for those three years. His running ability is superb, however. He’s been averaging 525 yards on the ground.
The Cleveland receiving corps has suddenly become crowded. Josh Gordon is their WR1 and he has star quality. He also comes with loads of baggage. He’s only started 10 games since 2013 – he missed the 2015 and 2016 seasons due to substance abuse issues.
Packers fans saw what Gordon is capable of when the winless Browns took the Packers into overtime last December. He had three catches for 69 yards and a touchdown, and he looked like a man against boys when roaming around in the Packers’ secondary.
If you remember how athletic and dominating Gordon appeared in that game, bear in mind that Janis is as tall (though five pounds lighter), considerably faster, has more burst, is more agile (Gordon skipped those two combine tests), is a better leaper, and had 20 bench presses vs. 13 at the combine. Both are 26 years old.
Also new to the Browns is Jarvis Landry. In his last three years in Miami, Landry averaged nearly 1,100 yards receiving. That’s a bit misleading, however, as he was targeted so often: 166, 131 and 161 times.
Landry, at 5’11” and 208 pounds, is a slot receiver. His combine numbers were well below average across the board. And yet he’s made the Pro Bowl three out of four years. The Browns will be paying him around $15 million this season because Miami had franchise-tagged him. I wonder if Janis got 10 percent of what Landry hauled in.
Janis to Start?
Maybe I’m biased, but I think that Janis will be one of the two starting wideouts come opening day. He’s bound to beat out Corey Coleman, Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins – guys who go a long way to explaining DeShone Kizer’s poor passing stats and winless record in 2017. If so, the Browns wide-out talents on each side of the field will create some daunting matchup challenges.
Say what you will, the Browns have turned their passing game upside down with the additions of Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry and Jeff Janis. And that’s not counting two out of the first four draft picks.
Congratulations Jeff. A great many Packers fans will be rooting for you and eagerly following your exploits.