Do-it-all mindset has made Allen Lazard a complete playmaker
Packers’ leading receiver can still throw a block with the best of them.
GREEN BAY – The internet came unglued at the sight of Allen Lazard toppling three Miami defenders like dominoes late in the Packers' 26-20 victory over the Dolphins on Sunday.
On Green Bay's sideline, however, it was business as usual – just another vintage play by the Packers' fourth-year receiver, which opened the right side of the field for Aaron Jones on an 18-yard run.
"Our guys, to be honest with you, it wasn't as crazy of a reaction as you'd think because they've seen it over and over and over again," Green Bay receivers coach and passing game coordinator Jason Vrable said. "Every week, it shows up."
Beyond the play's comedic undertones, and Lazard's counting of fallen Fins, the block was a reminder of why the 6-foot-5, 227-pound receiver has fit so well into Head Coach Matt LaFleur's offense for the past four years: He catches passes. He makes blocks. He scores touchdowns.
Four years of growth and maturation have pushed Lazard atop Green Bay's receiving depth chart. He currently leads the team with 688 yards and five TDs on a career-high 51 receptions. His 764 offensive snaps played have been critical considering how banged-up the Packers' receiving corps has been this season. Rookie Romeo Doubs is second among wideouts in playing time with 475 snaps.
For all his success, Lazard still embraces the grittier responsibilities of his job description – most of which are what helped the former undrafted free agent get his foot in the door at Lambeau Field.
"The thing that gets lost a lot of times when you talk wide receiver play is he's an enforcer in the run game," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said of Lazard. "Whether it's blocking the linebackers, obviously DBs, cracking outside linebackers or D-ends. This guy, he can do it all."
Admittedly, Lazard's blocking technique at the beginning was more effort than true fundamentals but he soon put the whole puzzle together. Since signing with the Packers on Dec. 18, 2018, Lazard has fit his prodigious size with the small details.
While Lazard has 33 catches of more than 20 yards and six of more than 40, he's also made a few highlight reels with his blocking, too. Take Sunday for example, when the post-snap adjustments called for Lazard to come from the slot to cut off Dolphins safety Eric Rowe on Jones' 18-yard run.
However, Rowe came out of his gap and bumped into linebacker Elandon Roberts, who was scraping over the top. After defensive lineman Christian Wilkins worked his leverage outside, it created a three-man bunch in Miami's man defense. It was all Lazard from there.
"Honestly, it was kind of a play that we really emphasized that week of the different looks we could get on how my job or assignment could change potentially," Lazard said. "If I wasn't there, probably all three would've been able to be there to stop the play. But because they were in the same gap and close to each other, it was just an easy play for me to make."
Blocking has been an emphasis in Green Bay's receivers room for years. It's a trait former position coach Edgar Bennett drilled into his players in the early 2010s, and many of those lessons were passed down from Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb to Davante Adams and the Packers' other young receivers.
It brings a smile to the receivers' faces whenever anyone in the room executes a solid block. It doesn't matter if it's a rookie like Christian Watson plowing through a Los Angeles Rams DB to clear the way for Jones on a 7-yard TD, or a veteran like Lazard dropping three defenders.
"I think we've really been on top of understanding that this is a team game, that every job matters," Cobb said. "Understanding that in the big scheme of things we'll go a lot further together by all doing our little part than being individuals and taking a play off and maybe not getting the block when we could spring an explosive run.
"That's a huge play and a huge block that Allen had on that play. That's what we do. It's about more than just catching passes. It's about being a complete receiver in this offense."
For Lazard, it started with his dad, Kevin. A former Iowa State cornerback, the elder Lazard often talked to his son about the importance of embracing all aspects of the game. Lazard stayed true to that ideology even during his record-breaking career for the Cyclones.
That mindset hasn't changed at the NFL level, either. As awesome as it felt to haul in a 42-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers at the end of the first quarter Sunday, it was equally as satisfying to clear the way for Jones to sprint into the open field.
"I've just prided myself on my work, my body of work regardless of what it is," Lazard said. "Even if it's doing something as little as running off the safety to open up for somebody else. If it's blocking the D-end so we can get out on the edge. If it's catching a crucial third-down slant across the middle or even a 40-yard go ball, I'm just trying to show and express my value to my teammates and to my team, so that they want things to go through me so that way we can have more success as an offensive unit and as a team, in general."
The Packers hope to have their full contingent of receivers available for Sunday's pivotal matchup with Minnesota. Watson hasn't practiced yet this week after leaving with a hip injury in Miami but remains hopeful the hip calms down enough to play against the Vikings.
In the meantime, Lazard's teammates know they can count on the veteran receiver to keep doing what he does best – whatever the Packers are asking of him in that exact moment, on that specific play.
"That's what got him on the field a bunch when he was a third and fourth guy, and that's what keeps him on the field and makes us love him so much. Because he gives up his body like that, consistently," said Rodgers of Lazard. "You want your best players to be your best people, and Allen definitely is one of our best people—and he proves it week after week by doing things like that."