Packers vs. Bucs: Allen Lazard stepping up in year two

The Green Bay Packers are mere hours away from hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday — but this time, Allen Lazard will play against Tampa Bay after missing the previous matchup in the regular season.

Lazard was out in that fateful Week 6 game due to having core surgery that sidelined him for over a month.

It’s no secret that Davante Adams has been Aaron Rodgers’ go-to guy on offense, but Lazard had been making the year two jump in Matt LaFleur’s offense that saw his playing ability elevate.

Allen Lazard earning Rodgers’ trust

Green Bay has had a number of high-octane No. 1 receiver over the years dating back to Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Adams. While it’s fun to reminisce over how great they were over the years, having a true No. 2 receiver has been a hit or miss.

James Jones (before he became a No. 1 target in later seasons), Jarrett Boykin, Jeff Janis, Geronimo Allison, have all shown flashes of becoming more … but never did.

Enter Lazard.

Lazard was previously with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted wide receiver in 2018 but would find himself on the team’s practice squad until December.

Green Bay, lacking depth at the position behind Adams and Cobb, decided to take a chance on Lazard and the payoff has paid dividends.

Getting a full-season chance with a new organization, Lazard would finish the 2019 season with 477 yards and three touchdowns — including a crucial touchdown against Detroit to help secure the No. 2 seed.

As the offense continued to learn in 2020 under LaFleur, Rodgers’ likely-to-be MVP season can also be attributed to the strong second-year of Lazard’s progress.

Lazard emerging as a dependable No. 2 in Packers offense

Any time your No. 1 read is taken away, quarterback 101 is told to look for a second option. Showcasing as the team’s No. 2 option in 2020, Lazard would come on strong as both a short-route and long-route receiver for Rodgers.

It started in Minnesota when Lazard posted a 4-63-1 performance in a blowout win to open the season, a breakout performance in primetime in New Orleans going for 6-146-1, and just recently in the Divisional Round, with perhaps the game’s biggest play, splitting two Los Angeles Rams defenders for a 58-yard touchdown dagger.

Many teams employ a one-two punch at the wide receiver position, but now it’s taking shape as Adams and Lazard have started to become an explosive duo in the NFL.

All or nothing against Tampa Bay

The NFC Championship Game is the biggest game remaining on the schedule as the winner will have the right to play in Super Bowl LV. They say that sometimes the lights are too bright for the inexperienced leading to subpar performances.

But a confident Rodgers is a confident offense. And that bodes well for Lazard. We’ve seen the crisp route-running, the first down pick-ups, and the long ball from No. 13 in two seasons.

Having the game at Lambeau Field should take some of the pressure off of Lazard, but he’s shown that given the right opportunity, Lazard can be an explosive weapon in Green Bay that does a lot of the dirty work.

After missing the first matchup against Tampa Bay, Lazard can go to work — just as he did against the No. 1 ranked defense a week ago — and help propel this team a step forward to bringing the Vince Lombardi Trophy back home.

The Lizard King is ready for Sunday. Are you?