GREEN BAY, Wis. — For two players with nicknames as impressive as what Jeff Janis and Jayrone Elliott have been given by their Green Bay Packers teammates, it might have been obvious before Thursday’s preseason finale that the two of them would be part of the 53-man roster this season. But if there was even the slightest amount of doubt that either could be passed over, the performances that each put on display in the win over Kansas City erased it.
Elliott, who was already known as "Sackmaster" after his three sacks in a four-play span in the second preseason game at St. Louis, is now called "Shakespeare." You know, because all he does is make plays.
It’s a creative bunch surrounding Elliott at outside linebacker, but the undrafted rookie out of Toledo earned it. Whereas against the Rams it was a well-below-average player that Elliott was abusing, in this game he was pass-rushing against the Chiefs’ actual starting right tackle, Donald Stephenson. First, Elliott drew a holding penalty on Stephenson after using his quickness to get inside. On the very next play, Elliott powered his way back on Stephenson for a sack to force a punt.
"It was just taking advantage of what he was giving me," Elliott said of his matchup with Stephenson. "When a guy jumps out there, it’s almost like you have to go inside. You have no other choice. I felt like that guy was a pretty great tackle. He really helped me get better tonight as far as being more physical. He showed me a lot of veteran moves that I can learn from."
Elliott led the entire NFL in preseason sacks with five.
"I think obviously he makes a number of big plays," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think his body of work has been very good."
Elliott had what appeared to be an injury scare early in the third quarter, but he said it was just cramping. That earned him a different nickname: "LeBron." Apparently Elliott’s teammates are aware of the cramping issues that sometimes affect the world’s greatest basketball player.
Considering how far he’d come in the span of three months with the Packers, Elliott was just happy that he’s getting noticed.
"Just don’t underestimate a lower-school guy," he said. "Everybody wants to get drafted, but at the same time, you have to go out there and work for what you have. You’ve got to go out there and just compete every day."
Janis was drafted, but he didn’t hear his name called until the seventh round. Affectionately known as "V12" for his Lamborghini-like breakaway speed that was first shown in St. Louis, Janis verified the nickname again when he broke free on what quarterback Scott Tolzien described as a "man-beater" route. Janis definitely beat his man and caught a 33-yard touchdown from Tolzien.
"I think there’s still a lot more that I need to prove, but I think I’ve shown what I can do and I think it’s going to be encouraging to the coaches," Janis said.
It would be nearly impossible to expect Janis to make it through waivers and onto the Packers’ practice squad, so even if the team doesn’t have intentions of using him right away in the regular season, the former Saginaw Valley State star shouldn’t be going anywhere.
"I think I’ve showed the coaches what I’m capable of doing," Janis said. "Hopefully in the future I get some more opportunities and really build that trust with them."