Allen Lazard hasn’t played since the third quarter of a Week 3 contest against the Saints in New Orleans, a game in which he and Aaron Rodgers were in sync. Lazard had six catches for 146 yards and a touchdown before exiting that game with a core muscle injury that required surgery, sidelining him for six games. This is an imminent return for a receiver who was really carving his role in this Packers offense.
More importantly, it’s a return for a receiver that Rodgers has trust in.
The questions that have lingered at wide receiver for Green Bay all year, aside from Davante Adams, have been noted early and often. Heading into the season, after the draft and after Devin Funchess opted out because of COVID-19, the big question was, “Who the hell do they have outside of Davante Adams?” It was a question Lazard was slowly answering with his own name with his performances through three games.
I paused at buying into the hype for a couple of reasons. I didn’t know if Lazard’s emergence (13 catches, 246 yards and two touchdowns in slightly less than three games) was a flash-in-the-pan scenario, or if it was something that would become the norm for Lazard. We still don’t have the answer to that. Secondly, could this undrafted wide receiver from Iowa State who was sitting on the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad before the Packers poached him realistically be a legitimate No. 2 wide receiver, or are the Packers that thin at the position? It’s another question we anxiously await to see the answer to.
Regardless of anyone’s thoughts on what Lazard may or may not be, what he may or may not become, one thing that can’t be disputed is his role in this offense. And his prominent presence at the start of the season. Lazard has missed six games, but he’s still third in receptions among wide receivers on the Packers roster.
Think about that. Marquez Valdes-Scantling has only nine more catches on the season compared to Lazard despite putting together back-to-back strong performances, and MVS has played in every single game (unintentional ricochet shot, my apologies to Marquez). For a large part of the season, the Packers have basically had a “receiver” core of Davante Adams, moments of Valdes-Scantling and then throwing to their running backs and their tight ends. Feast your eyes on this:
That’s correct. The Packers reception leaders by position goes: WR, RB, TE, RB for the top 4. You won’t see that anywhere else in the NFL.
That’s maybe a little by design for Green Bay and how their scheme works. Maybe. They know Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams are dynamic running backs who can both catch out of the backfield and need to be utilized in such a fashion. But part of the reason for those numbers is that the Packers don’t have much else established or proven at the wide receiver position. That’s why Packers fans are so excited to see Lazard back.
That’s why there’s swirling optimism surrounding his situation. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think he’s a true No. 2 wide receiver, the jury is still out on that and I get it. He is just so much of an upgrade from what they had without him, it’s another player for Rodgers who he has faith in, and it’s a viable enough threat that defenses have to spend preparation time on.
The unknown is what has people giddy on Lazard. Let’s face it, you know what you have in Davante Adams. He’s one of the best wide receivers in the NFL who week-in and week out-is going to give you No. 1 wideout production regardless of the matchup. The Packers know what they have in Valdes-Scantling: He’s a receiver that is wildly inconsistent, but he has those flashes and can stretch the field vertically. Allen Lazard is the unknown. There appears to still be a lot of untapped potential, but how much? Kick back your feet and let’s find out.