Jury is still out on Packers WR Allen Lazard entering 2021

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What is the next step for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard? Is he reserved to being a low-tier third or even fourth wide receiver? Or is he ready to take the next step? The Packers aren’t sure either, so they tendered the 25-year-old receiver for the second straight year.

Over the last two seasons, Lazard has caught 68 passes for 920 yards and six touchdowns. In 2020, Lazard was on pace for a career year before a core injury knocked him out for a six-game stretch.

The injury could not have come at a worse time as it occurred during a breakout performance against the New Orleans Saints.

With Davante Adams out with a hamstring injury, Green Bay needed a receiver to step up. It just so happened to be Lazard, who accounted for over 50 percent of the team’s passing yards. Lazard had a career-high six receptions totaling 146 yards and one touchdown. It remains only his second 100-yard game. What makes the performance even more impressive is that Lazard played part of the game with a core injury that would later require surgery.

Gutsy. Hopeful. And a sign of things to come? Maybe not.

Unfortunately, after the injury, Lazard couldn’t find his down the stretch. He never had more than 60 receiving yards in a single game during the final seven games of the regular season. That one night in New Orleans made up a big chunk of his yardage total on the season.

A former undrafted free agent, Lazard has average athleticism compared to other NFL wideouts. He’s not fast or overly quick, but he’s not slow. What Lazard does have an abundance of is size. Listed at 6-5, Lazard carries 225 pounds well and uses that strength and length to be a good run blocker.

As a pass-catcher, Lazard is capable of coming down with 50-50 balls. Throw the ball high or away from the defender, and he has a decent shot of bringing it in. However, that requires superb accuracy from Aaron Rodgers.

This begs the question, is Lazard merely a product of Rodgers? Lazard is not a guy who will consistently separate with precise route running. In fact, you could probably make the argument that his route tree is somewhat limited.

But when paired with a quarterback like Rodgers, Lazard has shown flashes. During his first season with the Packers, Lazard became an unlikely hero when, once again, Adams was out. In a Monday night game against the Detroit Lions, the offense struggled to move the ball without their best receiver. Rodgers asked the coaches to give Lazard a chance.

Lazard instantly made his presence felt, finishing with four receptions all in the fourth quarter. One included a 35-yard touchdown to bring Green Bay within two. On that night, it appeared that the offense had something in Lazard, but it was just a flash in the pan.

Lazard’s biggest issue is consistency. He contributes as a run blocker, but there are long stretches, even games, where he goes unnoticed in the passing game.

There are questions that need to be answered in 2021 if Lazard hopes to remain a Packer. The team still needs to work something out with Adams, and they will have to make a tough decision on Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, whose rookie contract is coming to an end.

By the end of the year, Green Bay should know what they have in Lazard. Either he will prove to be a consistent asset, or he will fizzle out and become dispensable.

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