In a year where many predicted the Green Bay Packers to take a step back, I’d say that them being 7-2 and currently in possession of the lone NFC playoff bye week shows that that step back either wasn’t as deep as we thought it would be or simply did not happen at all.
A big reason for that is because of their quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is once again playing at an MVP level. His 26 touchdown passes trail only Russell Wilson, and his three interceptions to those 26 touchdowns is the best ratio outside of Patrick Mahomes’ 25 touchdowns and just one interception. Rodgers also has the top QBR on the season at 116.4. Fair to say this is quite the season—might even be his best season—for a guy who has already put together some stellar years throughout his career.
As if that wasn’t enough, it’s about to get even better for the Packers’ offense, as wide receiver Allen Lazard appears to be close to returning to action.
I wrote about Lazard this summer, and how he brings a unique impact to the Packers’ offense as a reliable possession receiver to complement Davante Adams. But in my film review of Lazard, I made sure to point out that just because he’s a possession guy doesn’t mean he won’t burn you deep. In fact, Rodgers’ trust in Lazard as a deep player is what made him an asset to lean on.
To start the 2020 season, it appeared Lazard picked up right where he left off in the Packers’ offense with two strong performances in Weeks 1 and 2, where he played more than 80% of the snaps in each. The following week, he had one of his best games as a pro, catching six passes for 146 yards and a touchdown in what was a crucial early-season matchup against the New Orleans Saints. However, after the game, Lazard underwent core muscle surgery and was placed on injured reserve. He has not been back since that Week 3 game.
The timing of Lazard being activated to the active roster seems to be perfect. Not because they’re about to lose anyone, but rather, that one of the best passing offenses in the league is about to get better. We all know about how unrecoverable Adams is. But beyond him, this offense is rolling to a point where fellow receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling is coming off two games where he had a combined 10 targets, six catches, more than 200 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns.
While some might think that Lazard being back into the lineup may just take away from the momentum of Valdes-Scantling, I would disagree. It’s not like you’re designing plays for Valdes-Scantling the same way you would be for Lazard. In fact, they play such different roles that I truly believe Larzard’s return is more of a complement to the overall passing attack in Green Bay than it is taking anything away from one of the two hot receivers in Valdes-Scantling and Adams. Valdes-Scantling’ yards-per-target average sits right around 10, where Lazard’s is more around 1 5. And when it comes to reliability, Valdes-Scantling leads the league in drops with seven, where Lazard has only had five in the last two seasons combined.
Right now, Green Bay is one of the four best teams in the NFL when it comes to converting in the red zone at just over 77%. The addition of Lazard will only strengthen that number to either stay around the top or perhaps get slightly better. As it relates to the opponent the Packers are facing this weekend, though the Indianapolis Colts are the fourth-best team in the NFL according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, they are a bottom half team in the league when it comes to keeping teams out of the end zone once they reach the red zone.
Lazard will also give a boost to the run game, as his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame shows up when blocking. Lazard earned a very high run-blocking grade in the 2019 season, and that should continue as he gets back into the swing of things here in 2020.
Lazard is a great asset for an already successful Packers passing offense to add due to his presence being unique in the passing game and how reliable he can be when affecting the game in a positive way, even when he doesn’t have the ball.
Green Bay seems to already be in their groove. Getting Lazard back will make them tougher to stop.