What are the New York Jets getting in Allen Lazard?
What does Lazard excel at? Where does he struggle? What is his ideal role in the Jets’ offense? We’ll cover it all.
- Height: 6-foot-5
- Weight: 227 pounds
- Wingspan: 78.75 inches (76th percentile among WR)
- Arm length: 32.25 inches (58th percentile)
- 40 time: 4.55s (37th percentile)
- Vertical jump: 38 inches (80th percentile)
- Broad jump: 122 inches (56th percentile)
- Bench press: 17 reps (71st percentile)
Lazard’s physical profile closely matches his play style as a receiver. He is not a burner, but he offers top-tier size for the position and has great leaping ability for someone that size, which allows him to play above the rim and grab jump-balls, especially in the red zone.
In Green Bay, Lazard was used in a versatile fashion. For his career, Lazard lined up out wide on 53.2% of his routes and in the slot on 42.8%. He was even occasionally used as a tight end, lining up there on 3.9% of his routes.
Lazard played only one game in his rookie year. He elevated into the Packers’ lineup in his second year, playing 10 games with an average snap ratio of 44% in those games.
Over the next two seasons, Lazard became a more prominent piece of the Packers’ offense, playing an average snap ratio of 73% in both 2020 and 2021.
Once Davante Adams bolted to the Raiders in 2022, Lazard became the Packers’ top receiver. He had an average snap ratio of 89% and led the team with a career-high of 100 targets, 40 more than his previous career-high of 60.
His best efficiency came as a supporting piece
From an efficiency perspective, Lazard was at his most effective during the three years in which he was a complementary weapon to Davante Adams.
Compare Lazard’s efficiency as a supporting piece from 2019-21 to his efficiency in 2022 as the Packers’ No. 1 guy:
- 108 receptions
- 158 targets
- 1,441 yards
- 14 TD
- 0 INT thrown when targeted
- 68.4% catch rate
- 9.1 yards per target
- 8.9% TD rate
- 126.6 QB rating when targeted
- 51.9% contested-catch rate (14 of 27)
- 60 receptions
- 100 targets
- 788 yards
- 6 TD
- 5 INT thrown when targeted
- 60.0% catch rate
- 7.9 yards per target
- 6.0% TD rate
- 84.1 QB rating when targeted
- 39.1% contested-catch rate (9 of 23)
All of Lazard’s per-target efficiency metrics took a big step backward in 2022. That includes his success on contested catches, which might be the skill he is best known for.
With Adams hogging a high percentage of the targets, Lazard was hardly targeted over his first three seasons in the lineup, averaging only 3.9 targets per game. But he made the most of those targets. His 68.4% catch rate, 9.1 yards per target, and 8.9% touchdown rate are all excellent numbers: for perspective, the 2022 league averages for wide receivers were 63.3%, 8.0, and 4.4%.
Lazard didn’t seem like a fit for the pressure of being Green Bay’s go-to target. He won’t have to be that guy in New York, though. With the Jets, Lazard can comfortably slide back into his role as a complementary receiver who provides high efficiency on a low volume.
Red zone prowess
Lazard’s best trait is his production in the red zone. Using his size and verticality, Lazard is a highly effective playmaker near the goal line.
Since he began playing regularly in 2019, Lazard has collected 15 red zone touchdowns. That ranks 17th among all wide receivers over the past four seasons.
Over the past two seasons, Lazard scored 12 red zone touchdowns, which tied him for the eighth-most among wide receivers over that span. This is where Lazard does the vast majority of his touchdown scoring; only two of Lazard’s 14 touchdown receptions from 2021 to 2022 were scored from outside of the red zone.
Lazard’s efficiency is what stands out the most about his performance in the red zone. From 2021 to 2022, Lazard scored 12 red zone touchdowns on 34 red zone targets. That’s a rate of 35.3%, which ranks eighth-best out of the 47 wide receivers with at least 20 red zone targets over that span.
This should be an enormous boost for a Jets team that scored a touchdown on just 43.5% of its trips into the red zone last season, ranking 31st in the NFL.
Can be an efficient deep threat when the targets are infrequent
Despite his lack of long speed, Lazard can still be a dangerous vertical threat because of his size.
However, just like with his overall production, Lazard has only shown himself to be a reliable deep threat when his volume is limited.
Lazard was very efficient on deep targets from 2019-21 when he wasn’t seeing those throws overly frequently. Aaron Rodgers would pick the right spots to chuck a bomb to Lazard and the results were tremendous. But in 2022, Rodgers peppered a ton of deep throws to Lazard and the results were not good.
Here is a comparison of Lazard’s production on deep throws (20+ yards downfield):
- 14 receptions
- 32 targets
- 515 yards
- 3 TD
- 0 INT thrown when targeted
- 43.8% catch rate
- 16.1 yards per target
- 15.6% TD rate
- 130.2 QB rating when targeted
- 9 receptions
- 28 targets
- 263 yards
- 3 TD
- 3 INT thrown when targeted
- 32.1% catch rate
- 9.4 yards per target
- 10.7% TD rate
- 64.1 QB rating when targeted
For reference, the 2022 NFL averages for WRs on deep targets were 37.4% (catch rate), 12.5 (yards per target), 9.6% (TD rate), and 88.8 (QB rating)
Lazard only saw 0.8 deep targets per game from 2019-21, with 32 in 41 games. In 2022, that rate more than doubled, ballooning to 1.9 per game (28 in 15 games). Lazard’s total of 28 deep targets was the seventh-most in the league among wide receivers. The drastic increase in frequency was accompanied by a steep decline in efficiency, dropping from elite to poor.
If the Jets can limit Lazard to just the occasional deep shot, they should be able to get some strong results. But if they start overfeeding him downfield, it might not end well.
Drops are an issue
Lazard has a tendency to drop too many passes. For his career, Lazard has 15 drops against 169 receptions, giving him a drop rate of 8.2%. That is quite a fair bit higher than the 2022 league average for wide receivers, which was 5.8%.
In 2022, Lazard had a career-low drop rate of 6.3%, as he only dropped four passes against 60 receptions, but even his best rate remained below average.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, here is a breakdown of the route types Lazard ran in 2022 (based on the percentage of his route-running snaps in which he ran each route type tracked by NGS). This includes all plays in which he ran out for a pass, not just plays where he was targeted.
- Slant: 14.9% (WR average: 6.8%), Margin vs. position average: +8.1%
- In: 13.4% (WR average: 10.5%), +2.9%
- Go: 26.2% (WR average: 24.1%), +2.1%
- Flat: 3.7% (WR average: 3.4%), +0.3%
- Cross: 10.8% (WR average: 10.7%), +0.1%
- Out: 8.4% (WR average: 9.7%), -1.3%
- Post: 6.9% (WR average: 8.6%), –1.7%
- Corner: 3.0% (WR average: 5.4%), -2.4%
- Hitch: 9.3% (WR average: 17.6%), -8.3%
Most notably, Lazard ran a ton of slants relative to league average, and he ran a very low rate of hitches. In routes and go routes were also a key part of his diet.
For comparison’s sake, here is a look at Lazard’s route breakdown in the 2021 season, when he was still playing next to Adams. This might be a closer match to the role he plays with the Jets – it’s also worth noting that Nathaniel Hackett was still Green Bay’s offensive coordinator during this season, while Hackett was in Denver in 2022.
- Slant: 12.0% (WR average: 6.8%), Margin vs. position average: +5.2%
- Out: 12.2% (WR average: 9.7%), +2.5%
- Post: 9.3% (WR average: 8.6%), +0.7%
- Flat: 3.9% (WR average: 3.4%), +0.5%
- Cross: 11.0% (WR average: 10.7%), +0.3%
- Go: 24.1% (WR average: 24.1%), 0.0%
- Corner: 4.4% (WR average: 5.4%), -1.0%
- In: 9.4% (WR average: 10.5%), -1.1%
- Hitch: 11.2% (WR average: 17.6%), -6.4%
A few big differences stand out to me. Firstly, Lazard ran out routes on a significantly more frequent basis. Perhaps this is something the Jets should look to maintain. Lazard also ran in routes much less often.
I also found it interesting that Green Bay had Lazard’s go route frequency at a league-average level in 2021, while they boosted him up to an above-average rate in 2022 after Hackett and Adams left. This matches up with what we discussed earlier. Lazard is at his best as a deep threat when it’s not the bread-and-butter of his game and is only used in the right spots.
Still, though, the primary takeaway from these numbers is that the slant route was Lazard’s best friend in each of the past two seasons. It’s a route that allows Lazard to maximize his big frame, as he can box out defenders and make tough catches over the middle using his body. Lazard’s route-running on slants is pretty good, too, as he does a nice job of squaring up his defender to get him on his toes and open up the inside lane.
Rodgers 🏈 Lazard
— Empacotadores 🧀 (@Empacotadores) September 25, 2022
The Packers’ primary answers vs man coverage this season have been targets to slot receiver Allen Lazard and slant routes.
Should be a busy day for Myles Bryant pic.twitter.com/lj8rxnvkJ4
— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) September 29, 2022
Lazard’s lack of hitch routes is probably an indicator of his overall limitations as a route runner outside of the slant. This could be a negative effect of his size. As a 6-foot-5 receiver, it’s tough to make violent cuts on routes, which is particularly key on the hitch route, where you need to stop on a dime and make a full 180-degree turn back to the quarterback.
Lazard is a player who relies on his size and physical traits to make plays rather than his route-running precision – hence why he has never been a high-target-volume receiver (and struggled in the one season where he had to be). He’s not someone who should be relied upon to create target windows via his route running on a frequent basis.
Great blocking skills
Lazard has a reputation for being an excellent blocker. I watched some film of his blocking in 2022 and I found myself agreeing with the narrative.
Lazard is a very willing blocker who doesn’t take plays off and eagerly looks for work. He takes great angles to defenders, especially on outside plays where his assignment is to pin a defender inside. To top it all off, the impact of his blocks is forceful, as he makes the most of his large frame.
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) March 15, 2023
Allen Lazard can be a perfect role-playing WR for the Jets
Lazard’s addition likely means that Corey Davis, who offers a similar skill set, will be on his way out via trade or release. I would expect Lazard to step into Davis’ role as the Jets’ “Z” receiver. He’ll start and play at least 70% of the snaps.
In terms of targets, I think Lazard would slide in as the Jets’ No. 3 or No. 4 weapon as things stand. Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore are currently poised to be the one and two, respectively. I think Lazard will battle with Tyler Conklin for the third spot. Conklin might take the edge as he can be relied upon more often between the twenties thanks to his route-running skills, softer hands, and availability as a checkdown option. So, for now, I think Lazard is poised to be the Jets’ No. 4 weapon in terms of total targets.
Lazard will be a key blocker for the Jets on outside run plays and should be one of their primary weapons in the red zone. Between the twenties, he might not be a highly prioritized target, but he will do damage on third down with his excellence on slant routes, and every few weeks, he’ll burn defenses with a deep shot.
Lazard’s drop proneness, below-average speed, and route-running limitations are what prevent him from being a star. But in an ideal role that maximizes his strengths, Lazard can be very effective. It seems the Jets have the right pieces in place for Lazard to comfortably assume a role that gets the best out of him. Reuniting with Rodgers and Hackett while getting the luxury of playing alongside Garrett Wilson, Lazard is poised to make a big impact in 2023.
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