Life Without Davante: Lazard Time?

The season is creeping up. It is on our doorstep. I had such great plans for this offseason. And, while I’m happy with all the things we looked at, I still wish I had done more. There’s never quite enough time, and that’s a good thing. Maybe that means the offseason isn’t quite the barren wasteland it is made out to be? (That’s a lie: it absolutely is.)

I’ve spent a decent chunk of time this offseason pondering what the Packers offense will look like without Davante Adams. We’ll have answers soon enough, but I wanted to do one more look at the games in the LaFleur era without Adams. This time I wanted to focus on Allen Lazard: by all accounts, the Packers presumed WR1 heading into 2022.

As we all know, Adams missed 7 starts during the LaFleur era. Of those 7 missed games, Lazard played in 4 of them: 2019 Lions, 2019 Raiders, 2019 Chiefs and 2020 Saints. (For those keeping track at home, that means he missed 2019 Cowboys, 2020 Falcons and 2021 Cardinals.)

In those 4 games, Lazard caught 18 passes on 22 targets (81.8%) for 295 yards (13.4 YPA) and 2 TDs (9.1 TD rate). That puts Lazard’s per-game averages as 4.5 catches on 5.5 targets for 73.8 yards per game. If we extrapolate those out to a 17 game season (and round them, to make it look a little nicer), that puts Lazard at 77 catches on 94 targets, 1,254 yards and 9 TDs. Not too shabby.

When looking at those, it’s important to remember those those are pockets in time spread over a couple seasons, so simply taking those averages and saying, “Well, if he did this for a full season, here is what he will do.” Defenses adjust over the course of a season. And, while Lazard has been a useful receiver, we’ve simply not seen the type of consistent, high-level performance from him over the course of a season to project a 1,200 yard season.

It’s also important to remember that these numbers are bolstered by a huge game against the Saints in 2020 (6 catches on 8 targets for 146 yards and 1 TD). If we strip that one game out of the equation, his numbers over the course of an entire season look way different: 68 catches on 79 targets, 844 yards and 6 TDs. Still a respectable season, but a far cry from the initial numbers.

My point in saying all this is to say that a 4 game sample across 2 years is extremely small and impossible to use as an indicator to project future production. 

That being said…let’s look at those 4 games with Lazard! My intention is not to say this is exactly how he will be used this season, but I thought it might be a fun exercise to see exactly where his targets & yards came from during those 4 games. 

Will it give us insight into how the Packers plan to use him in 2022? Who knows! Will it help distract us until we have a Packers preseason game to dissect? Absolutely! So let’s do it.

As we have a tendency to do, we’ll look at it through the lens of passing concepts.

Mesh (3 targets, 3 catches, 55 yards, 2 TDs)

It makes my heart absolutely sing that Lazard did so well in Mesh. In the first two clips, Lazard is working as the vertical option off the Mesh concept. In the Air Raid system, that vertical route is the first read. If that guy is open, throw it to him. If not, move to the mesh point. In those first two clips, the Packers are playing the Lions and are looking at a single-high, man-under defense (Man Free). In the first clip, Rodgers takes a quick glance at Lazard as soon as the ball is snapped, then moves to the middle. He lingers there for a bit, but his intention the entire time seems like he’s planning on going to Lazard: he just needs to hold the safety for that deep vertical. And he connects with an absolutely perfect throw.

In the second clip, it’s a vertical out-breaking route against the same coverage. Rodgers is going there as soon as his back foot hits, but double-clutches a bit with a defender in his face.

The final clip takes place in the low red zone. There’s a bootleg component to this one, so I was tempted to throw it into the PA Boot bucket, but I ultimately threw it in Mesh because that’s how the routes play out. Lazard is working as one of the drag routes here, and Rodgers is able to find him in the end zone after being forced to pull up short on the bootleg due to pressure off the edge.

Mills/Portland (2 targets, 2 catches, 81 yards)

The first clip has Lazard as a drag/whip working under the concept, and eventually picking up 9 yards as the target of a scramble drill pass. 

The second clip is the highlight. Lazard is working as the post receiver on the Portland concept, breaking over the dig route from the other side. The concept works exactly as intended. The Saints are in a Quarters look on 3rd & 10, which leaves the middle of the field open. The safety to the dig side breaks down on the dig, giving Lazard inside leverage on his defender and an ocean of green grass where the route takes him. Rodgers hits Lazard with a perfect pass, and Lazard picks up 75 yards, falling just a few yards shy of the end zone.

Lazard does a great job with this route. Takes a subtle inside release at the line to avoid the potential jam from the slot defender, then pushes vertically with an urgency; his long strides eating up the space between him and his defender. He gives one false step and a head nod to flatten his defender, then breaks to the post. Great route.

PA Boot (2 targets, 2 catches, 57 yards)

I went into the nuts-and-bolts of PA Boot earlier this offseason, so we don’t really need to get into that. 

Lazard worked two different roles in this concept, with both targets coming in the Saints game. In the first clip, he works as the slicer. If this was a split-zone run, he’d be blocking the edge. In PA Boot, he releases under the line and works in the space vacated by the play action flow. 

In the second clip, Lazard is running the Sail route. The Saints are showing a Quarters look pre-snap, but one of the safeties seems to be rotating down as the Robber post-snap. Marshon Lattimore picks up the vertical route from Lazard, but his initial lateral release puts him in a bad position and he can’t close the gap. Rodgers lays a beautiful ball over the top and Lazard hauls it in.

Verts (2 targets, 2 catches, 33 yards)

Lazard is the outside man on both of these. In the first clip, he’s running a deep comeback route. There are only 24 seconds remaining in the 1st half, so the defense is playing back and taking away the deep stuff, so Rodgers comes back to Lazard on the sideline, who steps out of bounds to stop the clock.

In the second clip, Lazard is once again on the outside, running a stutter-and-go. The deep safety to his side shades toward Jimmy Graham, so Rodgers throws high-and-away to Lazard on the outside, and Lazard goes up and gets those cookies.

Stick (One-Man) (2 targets, 2 catches, 23 yards)

When I think of Davante Adams and what he brings to the quick game, I think of Stick. Both instances of Lazard’s targets on this concept came against the Chiefs. In the first clip, he motions over and is shadowed by a defender, so it’s looking like Lazard has man coverage, with the man playing 7 yards off. Lazard pushes vertical for a couple steps, then breaks to the outside. Rodgers doesn’t even take a step. He simply jump-sets and fires to Lazard out of the break.

The second clip is the Stick-Nod variation. Lazard is running the Stick-Nod route from the right slot. The routes are initially covered up and Rodgers feels pressure, so he breaks contain pretty quickly. It turns into a scramble drill, so Lazard breaks off his route and finds a nice, empty space in the field for Rodgers to find him.

Drive (1 target, 1 catch, 12 yards)

Lazard isn’t a part of the larger Drive concept, but I love his role here. He’s the #2 receiver in the right slot. It initially looks like a Dragon (Slant/Flat) concept, with Lazard faking a pick in the flat to spring Kumerow on the slant. Instead, he breaks off, reads the drop of the defender and settles down and allows Rodgers to find him.

RPO (5 targets, 5 catches, 30 yards)

I went in-depth on this earlier in the offseason, but we’ll repeat part of it here: the Packers overwhelmingly favor the horizontal RPO based off pre-snap math rather than the post-snap RPO where the QB would read a conflict defender. That is true of 4 of these 5. 

The first clip is Lazard as the Smoke receiver. It’s an inside zone run call and Lazard’s defender is 8+ yards off, so Rodgers flips it out to Lazard. The defender closes fast and Lazard can’t shake him, so it ends as a modest 3 yard gain.

The next 3 are all Bubble screens out of a bunch look, with Lazard as the inside receiver. It’s a pre-snap numbers read for Rodgers. If the Packers have a numbers advantage to that side, the ball will go to the bubble receiver. Basically, can they get hat-on-a-hat blocking and get the bubble behind those blockers? This is the most common RPO tag for the Packers. In 2021, they averaged 3.6 yards per attempt when throwing these. To Lazard across these 4 games they averaged 6.7 yards per attempt. (Keeping in mind that 3 targets across 4 games is an extremely small sample size.)

The last clip is the only vertical RPO in the bunch. Lazard is uncovered in the left slot. He pushes vertically and curls back into open space. Rodgers finds him for 7 yards.

Conclusion

This was a really fun look and, while I think it can help inform some of what we’ll see, it’s too small a sample size to draw any major conclusions. One thing I found promising was the different ways in which Lazard won. We saw him use his leverage to his advantage and maintain that leverage down the field. We saw him get the defense on their heels with the vertical threat to create space and angles to attack. We saw him win vertically. We saw him win in the quick game. We saw him win when working back to Rodgers as the play started to break down.

All of that stuff is promising. The ability to win in different ways without a true WR1 on the field will certainly serve him well this season. I tend to think that his season numbers will look roughly like the 68 catches, 844 yards, 6 TD stat line we talked about at the top, and that would certainly rank as an overwhelming success in my book.

I’m hyped to finally stop talking about “what things could look like in 2022” and get around to actually seeing how this is going to play out.


Albums listened to: Starflyer 59 - Leave Here A Stranger; LN - Monkeys & Spoons; Flyying Colours - Flyying Colours; The Appleseed Cast - Low Level Owl Vol, 1 & 2; HY-FY - The Bloody Pit (Original Soundtrack); Hum - Inlet

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Dusty Evely is a film analyst for Cheesehead TV. He can be heard talking about the Packers on Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @DustyEvely or email at [email protected].

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2 points

Comments (11)

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Vforrest's picture

August 06, 2022 at 06:45 pm

They’ll have to scheme him open…AR tried last night multiple times and went 0-for, but he gets no separation on his own. Love Lizard but am concerned our #1 won’t draw any double/bracket coverage 😢

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Coldworld's picture

August 06, 2022 at 07:23 pm

That’s what Watkins and Doubs are for and Watson on occasion. Leave Lazard for them and he’s fine. He’s not going to be a classic number one, but he’s going to play a lot of snaps and make teams pay if they focus on speed or open space for others by running these kind of routes.

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PatrickGB's picture

August 06, 2022 at 07:58 pm

I am afraid that you are right. Although he has hauled in some longer passes in the past. When he does so, he looks like he is running as fast as he can in order to catch up to the ball.

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Swisch's picture

August 06, 2022 at 06:54 pm

Pardon me being off subject, but why no written recap of Family Night, or did I miss it somewhere?

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Coldworld's picture

August 06, 2022 at 09:18 pm

TGR probably took a night off

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Coldworld's picture

August 06, 2022 at 09:19 pm

Duplicate

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 07, 2022 at 02:05 am

Sorry about you folks who are out of GB's market. My youngest son's birthday and my eldest made the trek back to his home in Salt Lake City after having visited here for a couple of weeks.

Check out the highlights using the link below. At 11:49, Wyatt attacks the outer shoulder, negates the punch from Rhyan and then spins inside against Rhyan to get a clean run at Jordan Love, who hit Toure for a TD. Now watch at 13:35 as Wyatt attacks the outside edge of Menet's shoulder. Here he gets past the edge and into the back field to blow up the run, though Hamilton makes the "tackle" because the back had to cut into the middle. Menet didn't his hands up or a chance to punch until Wyatt is past him. In a tiny sample size, Wyatt looks like a world-beater against Rhyan and Menet and not so much against Runyan and Myers. This describes Tipa Gileai as well, though he has some bend and can potentially win with pure speed, particularly if there is a push up the middle preventing the QB from stepping up.

This is roughly how I saw Toure. Pretty smooth. Toure looked pretty good at everything, just wondering if he has an outstanding characteristic he can go to. Doubs seemed a bit better able to flat beat people off the line and the speed to make the CB pay. Nice cuts at the stem and can make a contested catch. Both look like nice prospects.

At the practice I attended, attacking the edge is all that Wyatt did, and if it didn't work he went with a spin move. Against Runyan and IIRC Myers, he didn't make a dent and it didn't look to me like Runyan or Myers broke a sweat. Those vets backed up maybe one yard to cut off the edge as Wyatt moved mostly lateral to the LOS. It isn't that Rhyan is bad, but he is inconsistent, which doesn't translate well to real games.

I can't find it on a highlight reel, but at the end of the practice on a goal line play, Newman blocks Slaton at the goal line. Looked like a titanic struggle. It ended in a stalemate. Newman was not able to push Slaton back off the LOS, while Slaton was unable to stack and shed in time to stop Dillon from scoring though the RG. Not sure why there was no DT next to Slaton: I'd like to see the replay. Newman is another guy whose main problem was inconsistency at time. Newman is physical - that's not an issue. Newman got better as the season progressed, in my opinion. Pretty good run blocker.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rx2xgctXO_M

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Coldworld's picture

August 07, 2022 at 09:58 am

Toure is a guy who can get deep and did regularly, but excelled over the middle. He’s not as fast as Doubs is, though he timed faster at 4.48, Doubs has shown he’s faster than that.

Toure is very fluid and maintains speed during changes in direction. He tracks the ball well in the air, has really good body control. He has an initial burst or twitch to beat defenders but he is a long strider who builds up to top speed (I think he’s faster over 60 than many quicker over 40). In addition to being a leading deep play receiver in the FBS, he broke Randy Moss’ FCS single game receiving record with 303 yards on 12 passes, an average of over 25 a reception.

Some see the lack of real burning speed and his fluidity and ability to find space as making him primarily a slot candidate. He did play in the slot regularly in college, but he also played outside significantly and in all WR roles. Interestingly, while he’s played slot in practice quite regularly, we only saw him outside in family night.

Toure also runs pretty good routes and a varied route tree. There’s a little more room for polishing than Doubs perhaps. He could use some play strength to improve against press coverage. He can get overpowered in physically contested catch situations too. Despite that he’s a willing and decent blocker by and not shy of contact. In college he also ran the ball occasionally.

Toure was offered a late minute scholarship by Montana and took it. He played there for for years and then a year at Nebraska as a graduate transfer. He was voted their receiver if the year and an honorable Big 10 mention. Despite that one year in the FBS, due to conference and route there Toure got very little attention. He no doubt suffered in that regard especially because of the glut of Covid extra year players and WRs.

Toure wasn’t even invited to the combine. He ran in the 4.4s at his pro day but where he really shone was in the lateral movement and change of direction drills. Toure’s three-cone time of 6.77 seconds would have ranked him third amongst his position group at the combine, and his 4.22 short shuttle would have placed him fourth among the receivers in Indianapolis. This kid has some true plus physical abilities.

I really liked Toure once a friend pointed him out. I had him going near where Doubs actually did (I had Doubs in the second). Toure has real upside, but he’s more ready to play than a lot of mid rounders as well. I was shocked when we got him. He’s a guy who can be decent at everything, play anywhere and get separation short or deep and I think a little more physical development will make that more so.

As some know, I was a little shocked by the Watson pick on a win now year: despite being excited by Watson as a boom/bust type for months, he’s a big development project in my opinion. When we bagged Toure, I breathed an immediate sigh of relief. Another WR who should be able to help this year and still have upside despite being a little older at 24.

I’ve been listening to people overlooking Toure based on his being a 7th rounder and due to infatuation with Watson’s potential and, latterly and more understandably, due to Doubs exceeding all expectations thus far. I didn’t doubt that, when given an opportunity, Toure would make a statement that might open a few eyes. I think he just did. He will have ups and downs but I think he will do so again.

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Swisch's picture

August 06, 2022 at 09:16 pm

I'm excited about Lazard taking a step up into even more prominence in the Packers offense, but he doesn't have to carry the legacy of Davante.
As I recall, the Packers did very well indeed with combinations of Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones.
Something like that could be very effective this season. It would be nice if Watkins is able to provide a veteran presence to go along with Lazard; then we need a couple of other guys to step up such as Amari, Doubs, and Winfree.
It just may work with unexpected success -- complemented by our running backs Jones and Dillon as excellent pass catchers --especially if we see the real LaFleur offense with its illusion of complexity keeping defenses guessing and scheming guys open.
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I hope this is the year Aaron Rodgers really buys into the illusion of complexity and shows himself a cerebral quarterback on a higher level -- as well as more coachable.
With more humility and cooperation, he could elevate the talented Packers to a Super Bowl winner -- and in so doing not only add greatly to his career resume, but significantly increase his stature in the hearts of Packer fans.
I'm rooting for him.
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I saw a very good Youtube video recently called, "Bart Starr Remembered."
Among its attractions are highlights of a seemingly endless array of throws by Starr; and it's hard to believe that people think of him as only an average passer.
He didn't have a rocket arm, but it was strong enough to accomplish just about every type of pass there is for a quarterback to complete -- and what touch he had to go along with his precision accuracy!
Starr simply did what it took to win, and he was the most successful at it in NFL history, with a 9-1 record in the playoffs and five championships in seven years, including three in a row.
What Rodgers could take away from the career of his storied predecessor is that in focusing more on the small and hidden things as a quarterback -- and sacrificing some of the spotlight -- there are still plenty of opportunities for sensational plays as a passer -- as well as a greater likelihood of gaining in the most glorious statistic of all: playoff victories.
Hey, if his attitude was to approach his talent, why not two more championships for Rodgers?

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GregC's picture

August 07, 2022 at 05:12 am

Thanks for the clips and analysis. I think Lazard could have a big season, maybe even 1,000 yards. I could easily see him breaking out in the way that Donald Driver did when given the opportunity. It will be fascinating, hopefully in a good way, to see how the WR rotation evolves this season. The apparent emergence of Romeo Doubs has already put a new wrinkle in it. Lazard looks to be the only WR who is virtually certain to be on the field for the vast majority of snaps.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

August 07, 2022 at 11:28 pm

When the Packers offered Devante Adams more money than did the Raiders to resign with Green Bay, it became more than obvious that Adams no longer wanted to play for the Packers nor the fans of this small and unique city. As a fan, I want players wearing that hallowed Green and Gold uniform who love this team and love its loyal fans. For me, I absolutely love a Bart Starr and a less renowned Donald Driver who would bleed green and gold if you cut their arm. Life goes on and I will root for those who play in Lambeau field as their home and we will be just fine.

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