Undrafted, cut, signed to practice squad and 2019 breakout receiver. This has been Allen Lazard’s NFL career so far. He came into the league in 2018 as an undrafted rookie with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Packers signed him to the practice squad and after an injury, he was activated to the 53-man roster.
Even after getting onto the roster, Lazard needed to be patient and wait for an opportunity to make an impact. Week six against the Lions, he did just that. Lazard came into the game in the fourth quarter with the Packers trailing the Lions 22 to 13, and Rodgers looked to him right away. The first pass was a jump ball broken up by the Lions cornerback, but Rodgers went back to him the very next play. Lazard came down with a contested catch and made it a one score game.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) October 15, 2019
Heading into that moment, Lazard had one catch for seven yards so far that season. I wanted to hear what his mindset was heading onto the field, down in the fourth quarter:
“With everything that transpired, I just realized this was my opportunity and I need to go seize it. It was the moment I was waiting for, for a while. After going undrafted and realizing the path for my career was going to be different than I thought, I realized that my opportunities will be a lot more limited. I realized if there is one person I do not want to disappoint it was him (Aaron Rodgers). I just wanted to go out there and do whatever I could do to help the team win.”
Not only did Lazard help his team win with a game high four receptions, 65 yards and one touchdown, but he also did not disappoint Aaron Rodgers. After the game Rodgers said he may have “put in a good word” for Lazard in the fourth quarter.
It has been well documented that Rodgers is a quarterback that needs to trust his receivers. Lazard earned Rodgers’ trust and it especially showed on third downs. Lazard was targeted 19 times for 190 yards and two touchdowns. He was trusted on the most critical down in the game, and stepped up for the team. Coming in as an undrafted rookie and being placed on the practice squad, I wanted to know what he did to earn Rodgers’ trust during the season:
“Yeah, busting your ass every day in practice. The third down thing goes back to college. I think it was some crazy stat that 65% of my career catches were third down conversions. I’m used to being in those situations and kind of backed up in the corner and having to make a big play. I think he kind of sensed that with me. Obviously as the year went on I was able to make more plays and that trust and chemistry we were building kept growing.”
Lazard seems to be made for the big moments and he showed that last season. I asked him if he had a favorite route to run in the offense and he had a simple answer, “a touchdown.” He added that one of his go-to routes is a back shoulder fade which luckily for him is one of Rodgers’ most dangerous weapons. Rodgers and Jordy Nelson made a career of back shoulder fades and a strong chemistry, and after Nelson’s departure he needs a new back shoulder to throw to.
One thing that I learned from Lazard during this interview was that he does not let outside noise or chatter get to him. I started the conversation asking what he thought his Madden rating was going to be for Madden 21 after finishing at a 70 overall in Madden 20. He simply replied:
“I honestly don’t care about that stuff, but I do think it should be higher.”
We then talked about the noise from fans about the need for another receiver. Whether through the draft of free agency, fans were begging the Packers to add another receiver to the offense and give Rodgers a weapon. Lazard has a great mentality about the outside noise:
“Everyone has their opinions. The only ones I care about are mine and the people I love and care about. I respect their opinion. Everyone else with social media and that, it is going to happen you know. There is nothing you can do. I’m not going to invest feelings into it.”
One thing that this draft and offseason has shown about the Packers organization is that they have confidence in their wide receivers. They added veteran wideout Devin Funchess, but the rest of the group is the same as last season. They are expecting the receivers to make a jump from last season and Lazard shed some light on what they are focusing on to make that happen:
“I think the biggest focus point is the playbook really. Last year we were all handed a new playbook and we weren’t really sure how the games were going to be called or what plays were our base plays. What were our go-to plays? We did not have the full comfortability with the system yet. I think coming back in year two of the playbook and the system we will have a lot more confidence and be able to dive into the detail a lot more. We will be able to clean up some of the grey area we had in the past.”
The team will be under Matt LaFleur for the second season, and as Lazard said, be able to dive into the playbook of one of the more creative minds in the NFL.
During the interview, Lazard mentioned how he wants to be surrounded by great players and competition to push him to improve. With young corners in Kevin King and Jaire Alexander, I wanted to know who he liked to go up against the most during practice:
“Who is my favorite? Me and Jaire have a very personal battle going on everytime we get to line up against each other. We didn’t get too many plays against each other this year because during camp I was mainly going with the twos and threes and he was going with the ones. Once the year went on and I got a bigger role, I was able to get to go against him a little more. I am excited to go against him once I’m back in Green Bay. Also Kevin King, I like going against them because they are two different types of corners. Each are on different sides of the spectrum when it comes to corners. You have Kevin who is really tall and lengthy, he is not the quickest, but he is very savvy with his technique and heavy. Then you have Jaire who is just a freak athlete. They both challenge me every single day and help me improve my game.”
Not only is Alexander a talented cornerback, but he is one of the best trash talkers on the Packers team. I asked Lazard if Alexander has helped him improve his trash talking at all:
“Yeah, me and Ja get after it all the time. I mean it is always love when I’m talking shit with him.”
The trash talk seems to stop at practice because when I asked if he talks on Sundays he said:
“No, not really for the most part. Unless someone is really chirping at me. I usually just mind my business, put my head down, and grind.”
“Putting my head down and grind” is the mentality that allowed Lazard to earn everything he has so far. Looking at this season, that is what will need to happen for the Packers to make the next step and represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Before we ended our conversation, I asked Lazard what was something that people don’t know or are overlooking about their wide receiving corp. He said:
“Man, we have some dogs in here. We really do. A lot of spotlight is shining on Davante because of the production he has had, and he has been doing his thing. But we really have some good young guys with a lot of depth. I really think we can do some damage next year. Honestly, we believe in us and have a really good bond in our receiving group. We will do whatever we have to to get the job done.”
While talking with Lazard you can hear his confidence in not only himself, but the rest of the Packers. When I asked him what his expectations were for the season, he simply replied, “my only expectation is to win a Super Bowl.”
The team has started virtual offseason training and is working to get themselves ready for a tough 2020 season. Lazard is ready to prove that the Packers belong in the top ranks of the NFL, and most importantly, he is ready to seize his opportunity.