In a recent article, Pro Football Focus lists Allen Lazard as the X-Factor for this Green Bay Packers team during the 2020 season.
It’s a story that’s been told a million times by now. And that is the underwhelming performances that we saw from the Green Bay Packers’ wide receiver unit in 2019.
Geronimo Allison, who is now in Detroit, battled dropped passes and lacked playmaking ability with the ball in his hands. Marquez Valdes-Scantling struggled to connect with Aaron Rodgers on deep passes and saw his playing time dwindle. Meanwhile Equanimeous St. Brown missed the entire season and Jake Kumerow still didn’t see many opportunities even with the ups and downs at the position.
Although it certainly wasn’t the only reason, these issues at the wide receiver position did contribute to the inconsistency that we saw from this Green Bay Packers’ offense last season.
Now the good news is that the Packers still have one of the best receivers in the league in Davante Adams, and we also saw the emergence of Allen Lazard after his Week 6 coming out party against Detroit.
Over the remainder of the season, Lazard was targeted 53 times and caught 67.3 percent of those passes at 13.4 yards per catch with three touchdown receptions. When throwing in Lazard’s direction, Rodgers recorded a 116.7 passer rating and the young Lazard quickly earned his trust with his reliability on third downs.
In 2019, Lazard was targeted 23 times on third downs and made 16 receptions at 13.6 yards per catch with two touchdowns. And of Lazard’s 16 receptions, 15 went for a first down.
It’s that kind of production that is going to quickly gain the confidence of Rodgers and the coaching staff which then leads to more meaningful playing time.
However, despite Lazard’s success, ask any fan of the Green Bay Packers or any NFL analyst, and the receiver position was either at the top or a close second in terms of priority on the offseason to-do list for GM Brian Gutekunst. But as we all know, that isn’t how things played out.
With limited cap space, the Packers would sign free agent Devin Funchess who missed just about all of last season with an injury. And in a loaded receiver draft class, Green Bay didn’t select one with any of their nine picks. That move still has many scratching their heads.
With the likes of Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, and Jamaal Williams in the backfield, there is plenty to be excited about with this Green Bay rushing attack. But it’s fair to wonder if the passing game has enough juice to take a big step forward in Year 2 of the Matt LaFleur offense since it is primarily the same group of players as last season, except Funchess is in and Allison is out.
Well, according to Pro Football Focus, a lot of the passing game’s success could hinge on Lazard’s performance this season as he is their X-Factor for the 2020 Packers. Here is what Ben Linsey had to say:
“With the only offseason move at wide receiver being the addition of Devin Funchess, the Packers will need big things from a young, largely unproven player such as Allen Lazard.
He seems to have found himself in the good graces of quarterback Aaron Rodgers — a good place to be as a young receiver — and he did play well down the stretch in 2019, finishing with a 69.6 overall grade for the season. It will be on the former undrafted free agent out of Iowa State to silence the critics who were calling for Green Bay to add more at wide receiver.”
Perhaps even more so now than a year ago, there is uncertainty at the receiver position entering the new season. Prior to training camp, it does appear that Lazard is the front-runner for WR2 duties as there are several question marks surrounding the wide receiver depth chart.
For one, Funchess’ best season was back in 2017 and we don’t know how he will look after missing almost an entire season. On top of that, can Valdes-Scantling bounce back? What can we expect from St. Brown? How will Reggie Begelton’s game translate from the CFL? And will Kumerow even make the final roster?
Lazard appears to be an ascending player with plenty of room for his game to grow, but it’s also not a guarantee that he’s going to build off of his second-half performance from 2019 either. If that’s the case, then there is the potential that we see issues once again at the receiver position.
However, if he does continue to develop, having a consistent and reliable second option at receiver for Rodgers could do wonders for this offense.