By: Steve Balestrieri
With training camp just a few days old, the New England Patriots are re-tooling and already deadly passing game and it is starting with Brandon Lloyd.
It’s not exactly like Quarterback Tom Brady had an off-year in 2011, passing for over 5200 yards and 39 touchdowns but a consistent theme for them was the inability to stretch the field, both vertically and horizontally. They brought in Chad Ochocinco for exactly that purpose, and Ocho, like Torry Holt, Joey Galloway and others failed to catch on with the playbook and the system. Ocho finished last season with just 15 catches and was a complete non-factor.
Lloyd however was already familiar with the Patriots offense, having played under Josh McDaniels with the Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams and was very productive even given the weakness of the QB position at each stop. So far, the learning curve has been an easy one. Lloyd knows the system, the terminology and the routes, all he has to do is find that comfort level with Brady to earn his trust.
And the results to this point, albeit early in training camp have been nothing short of terrific. While both Lloyd and Brady openly profess to needing more time to work on their mutual comfort level, they are already far ahead in terms of comfort level where Ocho never got to. Lloyd has been a big part of the passing game, showing the kind of speed where he can stretch the field, find the open seams and be physical enough to fight and bring down the ball, even in traffic.
That is one part of his game that should pay big dividends; Lloyd has consistently showed the ability to snatch the ball away from defenders in traffic. On Saturday, Lloyd, covered tightly by Sterling Moore, was able to pull the ball away for a completion even with Moore having blanketed him. He and Brady have connected on many deep throws even early in the training camp that must have the coaches salivating.
One thing however, the common refrain heard around New England has always been, “Tom Brady’s favorite receiver is the open one”. Lloyd will bring a new element to the passing game and Brady will have to trust him, even when covered closely to go up and win those one-on-one battles. It will be up to Brady when to test the waters there, but with Lloyd in single coverage, he has the ability to make big plays out of small ones.
While the offense remains rooted in the tight ends with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and with Wes Welker in the slot, Lloyd provides the missing piece of the puzzle. When the team spreads the field, it gives Brady so many options; it is going to be very, very difficult for opponents to cover everyone. For Patriots fans heading down to Foxboro for training camp, check out #85 Brandon Lloyd. He should bring a lot to the table to this passing offense this season.
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