Packers Swoon Over ‘Goon’ Lazard
A look inside the numbers shows just how dominant Packers receiver Allen Lazard is as a blocker. The tough guy is more than just a glorified tight end, though.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – In hockey lingo, the tough-guy enforcer is known as a “goon.”
That’s also the role of Allen Lazard in the Green Bay Packers’ deep receiver corps.
“I like to call him our goon, and he’s an enforcer,” coach Matt LaFleur said on Sunday.
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 227 pounds, Lazard looks the part. While receivers are looked upon to make big plays and create first downs – and Lazard can do that – he’s also the one ready, willing and able to do the dirty work.
The proof is in the pudding. Last season, the Packers’ running game was 0.98 yards per carry better with Lazard on the field than when he was off, according to league data. In Lazard’s six-game absence following core-muscle surgery, the Packers never averaged better than 4.5 yards per carry. With Lazard, they topped 4.5 in six of 10 games. They averaged less than 3.8 yards per carry in five games. Four of those games were without Lazard.
Green Bay quietly has assembled a quality receiver corps. Davante Adams is the All-Pro and Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the big-play threat. Randall Cobb is the shiny old toy and Amari Rodgers is the shiny-new toy. But Lazard is the understated standout.
“In our system, we typically have Davante over there on the left side, a lot of times by himself to do 1-on-1s,” receivers coach Jason Vrable explained on Sunday. “Well, the receiver over there opposite is usually by the tight end. A lot of times, you have the running game, safeties get down over the top of the tight end. You’ve got to make, I always call it a conscious decision. If there’s a guy 5 yards over the top of me who’s barrelling down full speed, there’s some guys in this league who turn that thing down. And I can’t find many times on tape over the three-year period where he wasn’t going to try and take that guy and manhandle him and win his 1-on-1s. And it’s usually a collision – and it’s sometimes a violent one – where I feel like that guy doesn’t blink. Literally, he stares at the guy, looks him in the eye and goes in and puts his hands in his shoulder pads, and he’s coming back for the next play.
“It’s almost a hybrid fullback on some of our plays because you have to block that guy. He’s at the point of attack. That guy’s trying to get the ball-carrier and you’re standing between him for your teammate. To do that and also run go’s the next play, it takes a special character guy. I think he fits that mold of what we need in our offense to be successful.”
In ProFootballFocus.com’s run-blocking grades, Lazard ranked third among receivers last year. He’s not just a glorified tight end, though.
In his 10 games, Lazard caught 33 passes for 451 yards and three touchdowns. With Adams sidelined, he had a massive night in a primetime victory at New Orleans with six catches for 146 yards and one touchdown. Through those three games, he was on pace to catch 69 passes for 1,355 yards and 10.7 touchdowns. He suffered the core-muscle injury in that game, and that put a dent in his production. However, in the playoffs, he tallied seven catches for 158 yards, including the deep touchdown that clinched the victory over the Rams.
According to PFF, he averaged 24.6 yards per catch on targets of 20-plus yards – tops in the NFL.
It’s quite a story for a player who was poached off Jacksonville’s practice squad late in 2018, opened the 2019 season on Green Bay’s practice squad and had his career jump-started when Aaron Rodgers persuaded the coaches to get Lazard off the bench to rally the Packers against Detroit a month into that season.
“In the run game, you can really feel his presence,” LaFleur said. “But that also helps create some big-time plays in the passing game when he’s going in and he’s digging out safeties, just like you saw last year in the playoff game vs. the Rams. That was one of the longest plays they had given up all season long. So, he’s got that big-play potential.”