It’s the worst time of year for an NFL fan: the dead period.
This is usually the time of year that fans have too much time on their hands. They play too many “what-ifs” in their minds and in 2021, they’ve thought up too many scenarios surrounding quarterback Aaron Rodgers. However, my hope is that many fans are using this time in the offseason to think about productive scenarios for the upcoming season.
One of those scenarios for me includes third year wide receiver Allen Lazard.
Lazard, in a sense, came out of nowhere for the Packers last season. Lazard’s story is one of my absolute favorites. He was a highly recruited high school athlete who was recruited by several power five schools like Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Oregon; only to turn them down and attend his father’s alma mater at Iowa State. Lazard helped lead the Cyclones to one of the best seasons in recent years and carried a bulk of the load through the air.
After his senior season ended, Lazard was picked up by the Jacksonville Jaguars after going undrafted. He never saw action with the Jags, and was signed by the Packers in 2018. Lazard rose to prominence in 2019 against the Giants where he had over 100 yards receiving on the day. Last year in 2020, he posted 3 touchdowns and 451 yards receiving.
Many fans scoffed the Packers front office in 2019 when they bypassed on selecting several highly-touted wide receivers in the draft. While I was one of the skeptics, the Packers management knew exactly what they was doing. We’ve all seen the tweets and comments by fans saying “Rodgers needs weapons to throw to!” While this may be true, just stop and evaluate some of the current talent on the roster. Lazard is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to weapons for Rodgers.
The structure of the Packers offense has also changed drastically under Matt LaFleur. No longer is the team required to have 3 or 4 highly-valued wide receivers. With more emphasis put on the importance of the tight end (or multiple tight ends) in the passing game, the offense can afford to be more lax with their wide receivers.
Lazard has the body of a dominate wide receiver. At 6-5, 227 pounds he can use his frame to go up and attack deep passes down the boundary. With the addition of Amari Rodgers, the offense could have the opportunity to run more sets with a slot receiver as opposed to two boundary receivers and a tight end. This could allow the offense to attack the secondary more vertically and exploit mismatches with Lazard. I’m not an offensive genius, but I’ll take my chances with a 6-5 receiver over most corners that the Packers will face this season.
A good wide receiver can be extremely valuable not only through the air, but also in the ground game. From what I saw last couple of seasons, Lazard has been a tremendous blocking on the perimeter. His play in the run game seems to be very reminiscent of Donald Driver, who I always thought was one of the best blockers in recent years. In the LaFleur offense, perimeter blocking is vital with as many outside zone and sweep plays that he runs. Lazard is more than capable of getting that job accomplished.
With training camp right around the corner we will be able to see what Allen Lazard is capable of. As unstable as this position has been in recent years, I believe that Lazard will be a big piece of the puzzle in finding stability at a position that fans have so frequently questioned.