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NY Jets film review: Is there any hope of an Allen Lazard rebound?

Allen Lazard, NY Jets, Film Review, Breakdown
Allen Lazard, New York Jets, Getty Images

Maybe the New York Jets can still get something out of Allen Lazard

When Allen Lazard signed a deal with the New York Jets in free agency last year, people were excited because it seemed to indicate the Jets believed they would be getting Aaron Rodgers. They were less excited about the player himself, though.

I felt Lazard was average to below average in Green Bay, but I liked the fit with Rodgers and the chemistry that they had created together. After Rodgers went down in Week 1, it was clear that Lazard lacked juice in almost every important area, especially areas where he looked decent in the past. Among 81 qualifying wide receivers, Lazard ranked last in drop rate (17.9%) and yards per route run (0.68) while placing 75th in YAC per reception (2.5). All three were easily the lowest in his career.

Another area of decline was contested catches, something the 6-foot-5 receiver was previously decent at. Before 2023, Lazard’s career contested catch rate was 46% (23-of-50). In his first season with the Jets, he ranked 75th at 23.5% (4-of-17).

While some of Lazard’s decline can be attributed to QB play and horrific scheming by Nathaniel Hackett, Lazard deserves a lot of the blame.

I dove into some of Lazard’s 2022 film and 2023 film to see what could change – and what needs to change – for him to turn it around in the upcoming season.

Allen Lazard film

This was a consistent problem when watching Lazard. The effort/burst was just never there. Here, at the top Lazard has a squirrel route, which is a curl and go. The ball is by no means a good one from Zach Wilson, but the burst from Lazard is terrible, and he gives up at the end of the route. It was a constant on film for him that he was just uninterested last year. Whether that be because of the situation or the way he was playing, it was a massive issue.

Another constant issue for Lazard was his inability to separate. As I’ll show next clip, this three step/one step slant was something that Lazard and Rodgers did at a high level in 2022. Lazard looks extremely slow out of his break and creates no room from the DB who is sitting on the route.

This slant route from Lazard looks a lot different, and an important reason why is the creative play design. This is an RPO in the red zone that allows Lazard to get the DB off balance as he fake blocks for the first few steps and then bursts off his left foot on the slant for the TD. It is a play that we just did not see in the RZ last year, and one that the Jets could have very much used. Lazard does not do an incredible job here, but his big body makes it easy for him to shield the defender, while he and Rodgers show good chemistry and timing.

Another schemed-up play for Lazard. This was a staple in the Rodgers offense: a PA fake in the high RZ combined with double crossers and a max protection look. Again, it is not like Lazard created a ton of separation from the DB here, but the scheme and Rodgers are enough to complete the pass for the TD. The timing and chemistry show up again. This is why it is not a crazy thought to me for Lazard to contribute a little bit in 2024.

Another clip from 2023 where Lazard just looks like he is lollygagging through the route. Here, Zach actually throws a great ball and it is a chance for Lazard to make a good contested catch, but he drops it. The focus drops, along with the contested drops, were a huge issue for him in 2023. Any time the offense gave him a chance to make a play, he did not come through.

In comparison, here is a rep from 2022 that looks very similar to the previous play. Again, the scheme/play design is a lot better than most of the stuff the Jets ran last year. Lazard motions down, fakes a block on the safety to sell the play fake, and then bursts upfield. Shocker – again there is minimal separation, but Lazard and Rodgers are on the same page, and Rodgers places the ball in the only spot it could be. Lazard makes the contested catch through contact. This is another play that gives me some hope.

This is the first play of a 2-minute drill with 48 seconds left in the game. Lazard is at the bottom. I have legitimately no idea what on earth he is doing. These were the types of reps that made me want him inactive. It is just an inexcusable effort. Even if you are not the primary read on a play, it does not mean that you can do what Lazard does here. If he did not get chewed out in the film room for this rep, I’d be thoroughly disappointed. It is a horrible look when you are already performing the way he was, and probably why he was inactive fairly soon after this game.

Lastly, we have another play that gives me hope for Lazard in 2024. This was a staple play for Lazard in the Packers offense: the slot fade. Lazard and Rodgers are damn good with this play/route as well. Against press coverage, Lazard does a good job winning to the outside, and Rodgers drops the ball in the bucket.

Don’t count out a Lazard bounce-back

It is not hard for me to think about Lazard and Rodgers’s chemistry and believe that Lazard could be somewhat of a contributor this year. Rodgers truly elevates everyone around him, and that includes Lazard.

I think Jet fans overrate what he will have to do to contribute. If he can get 400 yards and 4-5 TDs, that is just what the Jets need from their WR4. He is not the worst depth piece to have, and it comes down to the fact he and Rodgers are very comfortable together.

With Mike Williams iffy to start the year, I would not be surprised if Lazard gets a good amount of reps at some point/to start the season. Am I thrilled about it? No. But it may not be as awful as everyone thinks it would be.

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