The 2022 NFL season will be a pivotal one for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard. The former Iowa State star has already come a long way in his NFL career but the coming season will determine whether he has reached his maximum potential or can continue in his upward trajectory towards becoming one of the team’s better receivers.

No NFL team drafted Lazard in 2018 but he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars and made their practice squad. The Packers signed him off the Jaguars practice squad in December and he made his NFL debut in the season finale that year, catching one pass for seven yards against the Lions.

Each year since then, Lazard has grown as a player and has now developed into a quality NFL receiver. Last season, Lazard caught 40 passes for 513 yards and eight touchdowns, all career highs. He did that despite getting off to a slow start to the season.

“With Allen, he’s come so far from when he first got here,” ex-teammate Davante Adams said before the Packers playoff game against the 49ers. “I’ve never seen a guy get better at football so much as what he has since he first got in the league. From when he first arrived here to where he is now, I haven’t seen that type of growth from any player.

Lazard doesn’t have blazing speed, but his size, hands and consistent route running make him a receiver that his quarterback can trust. Last season, 70 percent of his receptions resulted in a first down. Lazard’s size allows him to use the middle of the field well and can create matchup issues for smaller defensive backs.

This year, Lazard has a real chance to establish himself as one of the top two receivers on the Packers roster. He was one of the top three last year but both Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have moved on so Lazard is now the top incumbent.

The other returning players at the position include veteran Randall Cobb and second-year wideout Amari Rodgers. Both Cobb and Amari Rodgers figure to see most of their action in the slot as they are players with similar styles, body types and skill sets.

The Packers also brought in veteran free agent Sammy Watkins to give the team some more experience on the outside. Then they drafted Christian Watson in the second round, Romeo Doubs in the fourth round and Samori Toure in the seventh.

There are several reasons Lazard should have a big season ahead of him. He has continued to work hard to improve his level of play since entering the league in 2018. In addition, neither Watkins nor any of the three receivers the Packers drafted have the same set of skills that Lazard brings to the table.

Lazard’s blocking ability has always been something that Packers head coach Matt LaFleur has valued and with the likelihood that the Pack may run the football more often this season and scheme more players open on short passes, that skill will be valued even more next season.

Lazard has also already won the trust of quarterback Aaron Rodgers which has often proved a challenge for young receivers over the years.

Rodgers has praised Lazard since he joined the team. “He’s a great human, he really is,” Rodgers said late last season. “He’s a big-hearted, caring guy who really cares about his craft and improving. He does all the little things and doesn’t have an overpowering ego. He has a very healthy ego.”

Lazard has also won the respect of his head coach. “He’s a guy that’s proven time and time again that he can be trusted and it’s just about getting the opportunity,” LaFleur said in January. “When your number gets called, do you make the plays? He has proven the majority of the time to come through for us.”

The Packers gave Lazard a second-round tender offer before the new league year started in March. As of now, he has not signed the offer nor has he signed a long-term extension. The Packers still need to sign Lazard before training camp starts.

The 2022 season represents a big opportunity for Lazard. Without Adams and MVS on the roster, he has a real chance to establish himself as one of Rodgers’ go-to receivers. It would be the next big step in the journey Lazard has taken, from undrafted free agent and practice squad player to starting receiver and go-to guy.


Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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