Fri, 27 Nov 2020

Packers getting healthy at right time on offense

Packers
20 Nov 2020, 17:12 GMT+10

Unit nearing full strength with Allen Lazard’s impending return Wes Hodkiewicz

GREEN BAY - It's been 60 days since the last time the Packers' offense took the field with Davante Adams, Aaron Jones and Allen Lazard all in the starting lineup together.

That Week 2 matchup saw Green Bay post 488 total yards of offense and claim its largest margin of victory of the season in a 42-21 shellacking of the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field.

There's no guarantee a reunion will happen this Sunday in Indianapolis, but light appears to be forming at the end of a tunnel that's seen the Packers' trio of players combine for 10 missed games over the last two months.

Lazard was a limited participant in Wednesday's practice at Clarke Hinkle Field, one day after the Packers designated him to return from injured reserve.

The third-year receiver hasn't played since sustaining a core muscle injury during a breakout performance (six catches for 146 yards and a touchdown) in a 37-30 win in New Orleans on Sept. 27.

Green Bay has had numerous offensive skill-position players step up during Lazard's six-game absence, including tight end Robert Tonyan and receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, when it comes to big plays, but the 6-foot-5, 227-pound receiver's blocking prowess has been missed.

"I think Allen is an X-factor for us because as much as he's done really good in the first three weeks catching the ball, he's such a great run blocker," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.

"That's some stuff that we've been missing. So if we can get him back, obviously I think that would help not just in the passing game but running the football, too."

The Packers' offense was off to a prolific start before injuries set in, joining the 1991 Buffalo Bills as the only teams in NFL history to register 85-plus points and 1,000-plus total yards in the first two games of a season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Then, Adams tweaked his hamstring injury in the second half against the Lions and missed the next two games. A week later, Lazard was injured against the Saints and then Jones tweaked his calf prior to facing Houston and missed two games himself.

Green Bay, to its credit, remains one of the league's most potent offenses despite the injuries. The Packers are third in scoring, sixth in both total offense and passing offense, and 11th in rushing. No offense has possessed the ball more than Matt LaFleur's unit (33:08 per game) this season.

And, as the offense gets healthier, it's the Packers' hope they can easily get back on the explosive path they started the season.

"I'm expecting it to look just like that," said Adams. "Obviously Allen's not perfect so he's not going to come in and make every single play, but we just want him to come in and get acclimated, get to a point where he feels comfortable out there and however he contributes he'll be able to contribute whenever that is. We trust him and we obviously know what he's capable of, so it will only make us better as an offense."

Similarly with Lazard, this, too, will be an important week of preparation for Adams, who left momentarily with an ankle injury this past Sunday against Jacksonville before returning to make a leaping 6-yard TD grab that turned out to be the game-winner.

The Packers played it smart with their star receiver on Wednesday, as Adams was a limited participant in the first practice of the season at renovated Hinkle Field.

"I'm just playing it slow right now and just letting it heal up as much as possible," Adams said. "We're doing all of the right things to make sure I can be on top of the game by Sunday. I'm not even going to go there as far as guaranteeing if I'm playing or not, but that's the idea."

Whether Lazard is back against the Colts, there is growing optimism for a Packers offense that's getting healthier. Case in point, in that 24-20 win over the Jaguars, Green Bay featured the same five offensive linemen listed on their depth chart for the first time this season.

Now, the Packers are hoping for even more, factoring in what they've seen from the likes of Valdes-Scantling (a career-high 149 receiving yards vs. Jacksonville), Tonyan (three TDs vs. Atlanta) and others as of late heading into Sunday's matchup with Indianapolis and its top-ranked defense.

"They've got a lot of weapons, fueled by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Aaron Rodgers," Colts coach Frank Reich said. "So it will certainly be the toughest test of the year for our defense."

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