Jets’ Lazard inactive vs. Fins, challenged to play ‘up to his standard’

Jets’ Lazard inactive vs. Fins, challenged to play ‘up to his standard’

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – New York Jets wide receiver Allen Lazard, struggling this season after signing a four-year, $44 million free agent contract in March, was a healthy scratch Friday against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium.

“I’ll speak for him: He hasn’t been playing up to his standard,” coach Robert Saleh said after the 34-13 loss. “Everyone is pressing on that side of the ball to make something happen. There are parts of his game that need to get better.”

Saleh insisted the Jets (4-7) still have plans for Lazard, but he may have slipped in speaking about the future. Saleh said Lazard is “going to be here for the next year-and-a-half,” perhaps forgetting that the contract runs through 2026.

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The coach probably was thinking of the guaranteed portion of the deal – $22 million over the first two years, the largest guarantee for any free agent wide receiver in the 2023 offseason. After that, they can cut him with minimal cap ramifications.

Lazard started the first 10 games, but has only 20 receptions for 290 yards and a touchdown. He also has three dropped passes, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Saleh said the benching was “kind of a challenge to see if he can recapture the edge and who he is and the person that we have a lot of faith in. He’s a good football player. I do believe that. For Allen, he will be back sooner rather than later.” On a follow-up question, Saleh said “edge” was “probably the wrong word” to use.

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The coach also said Lazard, 27, was inactive, in part, because he wanted to play younger players. In addition to Garrett Wilson, the Jets used Xavier Gipson, Jason Brownlee and Irv Charles – rookies and first-year players, none of whom was drafted. They combined for only four receptions for 35 receptions.

Veteran Randall Cobb, a healthy scratch in the previous four games, was active but played only seven snaps and had no receptions. Cobb and Lazard left the Green Bay Packers, in large part, to reunite with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers tore an Achilles on the fourth play of the season, throwing the entire offense into a tailspin. In 11 games, the Jets have managed only 10 offensive touchdowns. On Friday, they were down six starters, including left tackle Mekhi Becton (ankle). The Jets hope he can play the next game.

Left tackle Duane Brown, activated from injured reserve Thursday, was in uniform, but didn’t play on offense – the first time in his 17-year career that he didn’t start a game and was used as a backup.

“[We] tried to give him one more week to get his mind right,” Saleh said. “Probably could have played today, but it was a little bit late in the week when we all felt comfortable with where we were with him. Had him dressed for an emergency only. We’ll see if we can get him back into the fold next week.”