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Can Allen Lazard be ‘that man’ to exchange Davante Adams as WR1 for Packers?

Can Allen Lazard be ‘that man’ to exchange Davante Adams as WR1 for Packers?

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  • Rob DemovskyESPN Workers Author

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    • Lined Packers for Inexperienced Bay Press-Gazette from 1997-2013
    • Two-time Wisconsin Sportswriter of the Yr as chosen by the Nationwide Sportscasters and Sportswriters Affiliation

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers has been an Allen Lazard fan from the start.

He likes to retell the story from Lazard’s first coaching camp with the Green Bay Packers in 2019. It was Matt LaFleur’s first season as coach, and with a view to maximize follow reps, he sometimes cut up the group into two teams: the starters and prime backups (referred to as the inexperienced group) at one finish of the sector, and the bottom-of-the-roster gamers (the gold group) on the different finish.

When Rodgers would look towards the opposite finish of the sector, he’d see a comparatively unknown receiver make play after play.

“It was day-after-day we had been watching the gold reps, and also you’re saying, ‘Who’s 13?’” Rodgers stated on the time. “I’m like, ‘Get him down on the inexperienced facet, no less than for a pair days. I must see this man in opposition to some 1s and 2s down right here.’”

Now, No. 13 has the possibility to be No. 1.

Whereas many across the NFL won’t assume the Packers have a real WR1 after they traded All-Professional Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders in March, it ought to come as no shock that Rodgers doesn’t share that viewpoint.

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“I actually assume Allen is able to make a soar and be a No. 1 receiver,” Rodgers stated as coaching camp opened final week. “And I’m excited in regards to the alternative to work with him.”

Rodgers has by no means entered a season with out a longtime prime receiver earlier than this. He has all the time had somebody like Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb or Adams — somebody he described as “that man.”

“If you stroll within the locker room for therefore a few years and also you see 87’s locker over there, Jordy Nelson, you see Davante Adams, it offers you a unique really feel,” Rodgers stated. “You simply know you’ve bought that man.”

The 6-foot-5, 227-pound Lazard has by no means had WR1-type numbers. His 40-catch, 513-yard, eight-touchdown season in 15 video games final 12 months was a profession finest. However those that have been round Lazard since he arrived in Inexperienced Bay late within the 2018 season, when the Packers signed him off Jacksonville’s follow squad, have seen a gentle development from a participant prepared to do no matter it takes to 1 prepared to interrupt out.

He has drawn almost as a lot reward for what he does within the run recreation than as a pass-catcher. Final summer time, LaFleur stated that he calls Lazard the offense’s “goon,” a reference to a hockey participant prepared to get bodily. In Lazard’s case, it was as a result of he was greater than prepared to throw a block downfield to spring an extended acquire.

“He will be the whole lot for us,” Packers working again Aaron Jones stated. “He’s already the goon within the run recreation, after which I feel he’s proven when he will get the chance, he might be a dominant receiver. He can go up and get it, he can run throughout the center and get it, he can go deep and get it.

“I’m completely satisfied that he’s getting the chance to be a No. 1 as a result of he’s earned it. He’s put his physique on the road the final two, three years for us, working down [and] blocking.”

Is that this heaven? No, it’s Iowa

IN ORDER TO put together for this season, Lazard took a unique method. He stayed away from Inexperienced Bay within the offseason; he didn’t signal his restricted free agent contract (one 12 months, $3.986 million) till after the necessary minicamp, so technically he wasn’t in violation of the principles.

As a substitute, he stayed house in Iowa — his very personal discipline of goals.

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To listen to him inform it, his mother “guilted” him into it, saying she by no means will get to spend time with him.

However he had one more reason.

“That’s the place my roots are,” Lazard stated. “Being this fourth-, fifth-year season and the whole lot, clearly I wished a brand new contract and extension. I’m going into free company subsequent 12 months. Let me return to the place the whole lot began. That’s actually the place I discovered myself as a person, a child and my identification as a participant and as an individual as nicely.”

As a result of Rodgers additionally skipped many of the offseason program, it wasn’t like Lazard was lacking beneficial time along with his quarterback. They made up for misplaced time virtually instantly in coaching camp, with Lazard as Rodgers’ first possibility early and sometimes.

Nonetheless, the Packers aren’t simply handing the job to Lazard. Common supervisor Brian Gutekunst drafted three receivers, together with second-round decide Christian Watson and fourth-rounder Romeo Doubs. He additionally signed veteran Sammy Watkins and retained Cobb. Additionally they have second-year professional Amari Rodgers and fourth-year professional Juwann Winfree, who has turned some heads early in camp.

However Watson (knee) and Watkins (hamstring) began coaching camp with accidents. And the extra camp Watson misses — and it seems to be like he’ll miss an honest chunk whereas recovering from June knee surgical procedure — the much less possible he can push for the No. 1 spot straight away. In reality, Doubs is likely to be Lazard’s largest challenger after his scorching begin to camp.

“I’m excited to see what he will be for us in a unique position,” Gutekunst stated of Lazard firstly of camp. “Allen’s a assured man. Each time we’ve given him alternatives, he’s produced. So with these new alternatives, I’m excited to see him develop and develop. However I feel sky’s the restrict for him. I feel he could be a actually good participant on this league. He has been a very good participant for us, and I feel he’s excited for the chance, as nicely.”

‘It’s a unique age now’

DON’T EXPECT LAZARD to immediately get all 169 targets that went to Adams final season. However he believes he’s worthy of his fair proportion.

“Clearly, when Davante was right here, his expertise is excessive,” Lazard stated. “It’s super, undoubtedly, he’s one of the best extensive receiver within the league proper now and doubtless might be for some time. That doesn’t imply I’m far behind him from that standpoint. I discovered so much from him. He’s taught me so much, not solely on the sector but in addition off the sector and learn how to carry your self as knowledgeable and as a person as nicely. I’m grateful for my time with him, however issues transfer on and it’s a unique age now.”

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It’s a important 12 months for Lazard from a monetary facet as nicely. He might be an unrestricted free agent subsequent offseason and a giant 12 months might imply massive bucks.

However he’s not big-timing anybody.

Lazard has commonly stayed on the sector after the principle portion of follow has concluded to stay round for the developmental interval. That’s when rookies and different younger gamers stick round for additional work.

“Clearly, Allen wasn’t right here with us in the course of the OTAs, however the second he bought right here, he’s been serving to,” Watson stated. “He was on the market in the course of the developmental interval when it was simply the younger guys, teaching the fellows up and letting guys know what they need to be doing.”

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