The Packers struggled to find a second wide receiver behind Davante Adams last season but after stepping up in Week 6 against Detroit, Allen Lazard emerged as the Packers starter at the other wideout spot.
Lazard finished the season with 35 catches, second among wide receivers, for 477 yards and three touchdowns. Twenty-four of his receptions resulted in Packers first downs.
Here are five reasons why the Lazard can take a step up and play an even bigger role in the Green Bay offense in 2020:
1. Lazard Has the Trust of Aaron Rodgers
It isn’t always easy for young receivers to gain the trust of Aaron Rodgers. The Packers quarterback has not always demonstrated a lot of patience when rookie receivers are don’t run precise patterns, don’t know what to do when the quarterback scrambles to extend plays and don’t follow instructions.
But Lazard has earned Rodgers’ trust. In a press conference during the offseason, Rodgers had this to say about Lazard: “By the end of the season, he was called upon many times in important situations to make big plays and he did…He’s just a great teammate and an ascending player, loved his approach every week and he made big time plays for us.”
The fact that Lazard has been a frequent third-down target for Rodgers also demonstrates the quarterback’s trust in him. When a drive is on the line, Rodgers feels comfortable looking for Lazard and trying to keep possession of the ball. This puts Lazard in a strong good position heading into 2020.
2. Lazard Has the Physical Tools
There is little doubt Lazard has the physical tools to succeed in the NFL. The former Iowa State star has excellent size for a wide receiver at 6’5” and 227 pounds. That gives him a big advantage over defensive backs who tend to be at least 3-5” shorter and 15-25 pounds lighter than Lazard.
As he gains experience, Lazard is learning how to use that edge to his advantage. He can box out smaller defenders and get access to a 50-50 ball because of his height and size. Plays like the back shoulder pass, for example, are difficult for smaller defenders to stop and could result in nearly certain gains for key yardage in the future so long as Rodgers throws the ball accurately.
3. Lazard Has an Excellent Work Ethic
One thing nobody has questioned about Lazard is his dedication to the game and to improving his level of play.
Davante Adams was impressed with the way Lazard went about improving his game. “There haven’t been too many people since I’ve been in the league that I’ve legitimately seen get better at football, over the course of when he got here at the end of last season up to this point,” said Adams told Packers.com about Lazard. “His growth in route-running, the questions that he asks me about releases and different things that weren’t even necessarily a part of his game to start, I think he’s starting to open that up.”
Lazard also explained he learned a lot from watching how Adams goes about his business. “He’s really expanded my knowledge of the game. Not only understanding the X’s and O’s but also, I think a lot of stuff Davante does is freelancing and reactions. It’s being able to understand how and why he does those things,” Lazard said.
4. The Packers Didn’t Draft a Wide Receiver
The Packers did not add a wide receiver in this year’s draft. While most experts expected them to draft at least one wideout, the Packers did not select one this year.
They did add free agent Devin Funchess who played in only one game last season before suffering a season-ending injury and signed former CFL star Reggie Begelton.
There Packers did not re-sign Geronimo Allison, but the rest of the receiving corps is returning. Entering training camp, Lazard is considered the frontrunner to be WR2. The job is his to lose and a strong training camp will almost certainly clinch the position for him.
5. Lazard Is Entering His Third NFL Season
Many receivers make a jump in their third NFL season. Recent examples for the Packers include Davante Adams, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson.
Lazard joined the Packers late in the 2018 season and made his first NFL reception in the season finale against the Lions.
Last year, he was cut in the preseason before rejoining the team prior to Week 1 and didn’t really see the field until the fourth quarter of the Week 6 contest against the Lions.
Still, Lazard continued to improve throughout the season. He picked up his first career 100-yard game in Week 12 against the Giants and then tied his career high with five receptions in a game in Week 16 in Minnesota.
If Lazard continues to improve, this could be a big season for him, with 50-plus receptions being a real possibility.
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