When Billy Turner left Sunday night’s game with a knee injury, the Green Bay Packers were left with an offensive line that nowhere near resembled what the optimal five-man unit would look like. With David Bakhtiari‘s return not immediately guaranteed, offensive line coach Adam Stenavich has his work cut out for him. He’ll need to incorporate secret weapons Marcedes Lewis and Allen Lazard, who figure to be a huge part of the offense moving forward.
On Monday afternoon, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur indicated that Turner’s injury might not be season-ending. But he is certain to miss time, leaving Green Bay with one stalwart on the offensive line: rookie Royce Newman. Stenavich and the Packers were able to adapt on the fly, seemingly growing stronger as the game progressed. According to PFF, Green Bay allowed pressure on just six of 40 dropbacks, with Aaron Rodgers posting an efficient 27 of 34 line for 321 yards and four touchdown passes.
A number of contributing factors played into Green Bay’s ability to withstand losing Turner in the 45-30 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. A major factor? Increased snaps and production by both Lazard and Lewis. Aaron Rodgers has spoken highly of both players’ blocking ability, and each has seen more playing time largely because of that particular ability. Lazard saw 82% of the offensive snaps on Sunday after seeing just 65 and 59% the two weeks prior. Lewis was on the field for 55% of the snaps — his second-highest snap total in two months.
What makes Lazard, the 26-year-old fourth-year player out of Iowa State, and Lewis, the 37-year-old, 16-year veteran, particularly dangerous is their ability to not only assist within Stenavich’s blocking schemes but pose a threat as pass catchers too. Lazard had a season-high seven targets, hauling in six for 75 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Lewis had his best game with Green Bay and his highest yardage total since joining the Packers. His previous high was four catches for 62 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-7 Jacksonville Jaguars win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 24, 2017.
Nobody is going to mistake Lewis for Travis Kelce as a receiving threat. But he can be a poor man’s George Kittle — to a certain extent. Lewis will not be getting double-digit targets or having 100-yard games like the San Francisco 49ers standout. But he can be trusted in the blocking game, including one-on-one when needed, even on defensive ends. Yosh Nijman and Dennis Kelly have held up okay, but Lewis will continue to see significant snaps as a de facto sixth lineman with the elite pass rushers still left on the Packers’ schedule.
Lazard is certainly more mobile than Lewis, and has the physicality to work over the middle of the field, something that the Packers desperately need with players like Randall Cobb and Robert Tonyan out of the lineup. While Rodgers can throw the deep ball as well as anyone, there will likely be fewer long-developing routes to Marquez Valdes-Scantling and more quick passes to guys like Lazard. His touchdown showcased a Davante Adams-esque release off the line, finding space for an easy pitch and catch on a crucial fourth down to put points on the board late in the second quarter.
Make no mistake, this offense still runs through Rodgers, Davante Adams, and the running back duo of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. That group alone can win you plenty of football games. When the playoffs come around, and the defensive game plans are schemed up to take Jones and Adams out, that’s where complementary weapons like Lazard and Lewis become more important.
On a drive-to-drive basis, having those two help shore up an inexperienced but resilient offensive line helps give Rodgers time to do what he does best. We might see more quick passes out of Green Bay’s offense to minimize the amount of time the line needs to block. Having sure-handed players like Lazard and Lewis operating near the line of scrimmage are a luxurious safety valve that the Packers can’t take for granted.