After showing flashes of a breakout year at the start of last season, Allen Lazard missed six games with an injury and never quite got back to the trajectory he appeared to be on. This season the Green Bay Packers will be banking on the complete skillset of Lazard to help the offense reach its peak now that he’s healthy and entering a contract year.
It seems that all of Green Bay’s pass-catchers have had their turn in the spotlight this offseason. The buzz around Davante Adams is warranted. Whether it’s talk about a contract extension, his 99 rating in Madden, or any conversation he may or may not have had with old pal Derek Carr, he might be the best wideout on the planet and deserves our attention.
Plenty of ink has been spilled touting this year as the one that Marquez Valdes-Scantling becomes a reliable deep threat, whether or not Robert Tonyan can replicate his production from last year, and the Green Bay front office finally using a draft pick on a wide receiver in Amari Rodgers. Add in the Aaron Rodgers saga, which included the acquisition of Randall Cobb, and it’s easy to see how Lazard has flown under the radar.
Lazard still posted 33 receptions for 451 yards despite being sidelined for six games. The best game of his NFL career came in Week 3, when he caught six passes for 146 yards and a touchdown in a 37-30 shootout win on the road against the New Orleans Saints. Lazard showed his ability to get behind the defense on two separate occasions, hauling in a 48-yard pass early in the game before a home run shot for 72 yards early in the second half. Unfortunately for Lazard and the Packers, he tore an abdominal muscle on this play and ended up missing a month of a half.
When he returned from injury, he didn’t have a chance to show off that same vertical ability until the playoffs, when he had a 58-yard touchdown catch to put the icing on the cake of the Packers’ divisional round win over the Los Angeles Rams.
When he’s healthy, Lazard is a very real threat to opposing defenses. Having a world-class receiver in Davante Adams on the other side of the field and Aaron Rodgers slinging the ball his way certainly doesn’t hurt, but Lazard has proven that he can not only get open but reliably bring down the catch when he’s targeted.
What sets Lazard apart is his size and physicality. Listed as 6’5” and 227 lbs., he can be counted on in all facets of the offense, including as a tenacious blocker to help break plays in the running game. The Packers will be without All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari for the first six games of the season, so having extra players who can block their assignment will be all the more important.
“In the run game, you can really feel his presence,” Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur said in late August. “But that also helps create some big-time plays in the passing game when he’s going in and he’s digging out safeties, just like you saw last year in the playoff game vs. the Rams. That was one of the longest plays they had given up all season long. So he’s got that big-play potential.”
According to an article by Sports Illustrated’s Bill Huber, Lazard had some elite-level blocking ability when he saw the field last year.
In ProFootballFocus.com’s run-blocking grades, Lazard ranked third among receivers last year. He’s not just a glorified tight end, though. According to PFF, he averaged 24.6 yards per catch on targets of 20-plus yards – tops in the NFL.
Green Bay offense is going to be dangerous this year because of its depth and versatility. The one-two punch of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon (with a sprinkle of Kylin Hill) will lead the rushing attack, complementing Adams, Valdes-Scantling, and Tonyan in the passing game. Adding in a complete offensive player like Lazard for a full 17-game schedule could be the key for the Packers to be as dangerous as they need to be in order to meet the team’s Super Bowl expectations.