Denver Broncos: Will Brandon Lloyd Repeat His Great 2010 Season in 2011?
His ability to make the acrobatic and circus-like catches, coupled with the level of consistency that he provided, made him not only one of the biggest surprises of the league, but also earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl.
On a team that was aimlessly flailing further into the downward spiral of mediocrity after the loss of some key position players, Lloyd provided the much-needed spark that encouraged fans to forget about the other Brandon whom he replaced.
Lloyd’s 2010 stat line: 77 catches for 1448 yards and 11 TD’s.
As we look into the proverbial crystal ball at what 2011 could entail for our Broncos, it becomes clear Brandon Lloyd will be at the center of a revitalized receiving corp.
However, will he be able to duplicate his incredible 2010 season? On the other hand, will he fall back into the ways that once made him a nomadic player?
How will the coaching change, as well as a change in offensive philosophy, affect Lloyd as he looks to continue his resurgence and further break away from the labels of “oft-injured” and “questionable attitude” that once plagued him earlier in his career?
Finally, what are some other key factors that will contribute to, or adversely affect, his ability to continue his dominance over the opposing teams’ secondary?
In the slide show that follows, these questions will be addressed, as well as other key factors introduced, as we take a closer look at Brandon Lloyd and the five factors that will influence his 2011 season.
No. 5: Attitude, Health and the Effect on Continued Production
To some Broncos fans, Brandon Lloyd may have seemed to appear out of nowhere, like a shooting star on a clear night. These fans may not have heard very much about him, and rightfully so, before 2010 there really was not much to discuss.
The truth is Lloyd will be entering into his ninth season in 2011. In his first seven seasons in the league, his production was nowhere near the level it was in 2010. In fact, Lloyd’s career highs prior to 2010 looked like this: 48 catches for 733 yards and six TD’s.
Compare these stats to the aforementioned stats found in the introduction and it is obvious that Lloyd had a career year.
To justify 2010 as being a career year, consider this—according to NFL.com—32 percent of his career receptions, 38 percent of his total receiving yards, and 42 percent of his career TD’s all came last season. He was also able to increase his yards per reception average by three yards.
In light of these statistics, one may ask, “How can teams let a guy like this go?”
Well, the answer is a bit of a quandary.
Lloyd was initially drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round of the 2003 Draft. After having three reasonably successful years with the 49ers in which he scored 13 TD’s, Lloyd was traded to the Washington Redskins for two draft picks.
It was in Washington where he began to have problems. In his first year with the Redskins, Lloyd had a horrendous year, contributing only 23 catches for 365 yards. Questions arose with regard to Lloyd’s attitude, as he was never able to have an amiable relationship with then coach Joe Gibbs.
Lloyd suffered a broken collarbone toward the end of his second season with the Redskins and he was given his outright release. He was picked up by the Bears in 2008 and developed a rapport with a guy by the name of Kyle Orton.
But Lloyd was again bitten by the injury bug and he fell out of the good graces with the coaching staff due to attitude and injury. The Bears did not renew his one-year deal and he was picked up by Denver in the summer of 2009.
In hearing about the tumultuous career of Brandon Lloyd, one could ascertain that he had been able to display talent, but it almost appears that he does it when he decides to “turn it on."
Is Brandon Lloyd a diva wide receiver?
That may not be the case, and he has not given any signs that would allude to the fact that he is, but what if he is no longer the focal point in the passing game next year, will it reignite the attitude issues that he once had?
Granted he seems like he has a great attitude and sometimes players and coaches do not mix.
However, it may be something to keep an eye on.
No. 4: The Emergence of the Other Guys
In 2010, Brandon Lloyd accounted for 44 percent of the receiving touchdowns.
The next closest receiver had three. It was a tie between Eddie Royal and running back Knowshon Moreno.
Lloyd’s 1448 yards receiving accounted for a third of the overall yardage production in that category.
Moving forward into 2011, two things are likely to happen.
First, Lloyd is going to start seeing different looks from defenders and he will be double covered almost every time he steps on the field. Anytime there is a disparity between receivers, like the one we saw last year with Lloyd, teams will try to eliminate the best offensive weapon—clearly that is Brandon Lloyd.
Another aspect that could factor into whether or not Lloyd can duplicate his 2010 season is the fact—or hope—that some of the other receivers start to pick up their game.
It is uncertain whether veterans such as Eddie Royal or Jabar Gaffney will be on the roster next season. They may become casualties of a trade, or given their outright release, but it is the younger guys which Broncos fans should have their focus.
Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker both were able to see extended action this season. Thomas was a little more sporadic as he was never able to get a full training camp in due to an injury, and then he was oft-injured throughout the season.
Decker was able to contribute on special teams most of the season, and he was finally called up to run plays with the offense in the final three games.
It appeared he may be starting to develop a relationship with Tim Tebow, and if Tebow is indeed the starter next season, this may be something for Broncos fans to keep their eyes on in the future.
It is very important to recognize that if Lloyd’s production drops because of increased production from other receivers, it would not be terrible.
If anything, it would probably bode well for the offense as a whole because it would translate into Denver having a much more diverse and dangerous attack.
Which takes us to our third element regarding the production of Brandon Lloyd.
No. 3: The Presence of an Effective Running Game
Anyone who watched the Denver Broncos play last year knows how anemic and blatantly ineffective the running game was for the Broncos.
Once again, they relied on the efforts of Knowshon Moreno to carry the load. Unfortunately, Knowshon showed glimpses of dominance, but inevitably, it was the same result for Moreno. He spent a lot of time in the training room, and not nearly as much time on the field as he—or the team—would have liked.
This verity led to Denver having one of the worst rushing attacks in the league last season, and made the offense completely one-dimensional.
Which brings us to 2011.
Although nobody likes a dominant passing game as much as the receivers and quarterbacks, it still is the not the most conducive way to win football games. Offenses need to be able to establish a consistent running game because it enables them to both utilize play action and control the tempo of the game.
It also takes an enormous amount of pressure off the quarterback, which is something that either guy would appreciate.
Even though Knowshon Moreno is under contract for the next few years, and he has been the featured back for the Broncos over the last two years, it should not surprise anyone if the team becomes a player in the free agent market for a running back.
If Denver is able to average more than the abysmal numbers, they were averaging on the ground in 2010, this would take targets away from Lloyd—and his production could drop.
The way things are looking now, this may be a “run-first, pass-second” attack, but more on that later…
No. 2: Who Is Going to Be Under Center?
Note: This portion of the slide show is NOT intended to start a war between the two clans. It is merely to show how Brandon Lloyd’s production could be affected by the quarterback. Nonetheless, if you want to take it there, knock yourself out.
As they begin to prepare for the 2011 season, it is very possible the Denver Broncos could find themselves in the midst of a quarterback controversy.
VP of Personnel John Elway has stood directly on the fence on this issue, offering his allegiance to both Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow, with regard to their status on the team. However, it is important to establish that both Orton and Tebow managed to find Brandon Lloyd—often—while each was under center for the Broncos.
So, does it really matter to Lloyd who the starting quarterback is?
Only Lloyd knows who his favorite of the two is.
One could ascertain, solely by looking at his exuberance after his Tebow thrown TD receptions that it could be Tebow. He spoke very highly of Tebow in the postgame news conferences, but at the same time, it is not as if he considered Orton to be a bush league player either.
The unfortunate thing for fans is that we are never made privy to the things that athletes say amongst each other behind closed doors. This is the sole downfall to not having a T.O. diva type on your team.
One can merely speculate as to who the better choice under center will be for the team.
Orton definitely has experience going for him, and he was able to build a fantastic rapport with Lloyd before he was injured. At first glance, he throws the deep ball better than Tebow and has a stronger acumen than Tebow when it comes to running pro-style offenses.
However, the fire and intensity that Tebow displays cannot be overlooked either. His ability to improvise on the run may be something that can help keep Lloyd on his toes.
His youth and exuberance can be seen as an inspiration to the veterans, specifically the receivers, and they can be confident in knowing that their offensive leader is a guy who will always fight, and never give up until the final whistle blows.
Either way, Brandon Lloyd hopes that whoever is under center will continue to look for No. 84. If they do not, his production will not mirror 2010.
No. 1: John Fox and the Change in “System”
When the Denver Broncos decided to hire John Fox as their next head coach, they were looking for a guy who was going to help rebuild an ailing defense and bring a resilient will and determination to the team.
Fox is widely recognized around the league as a coach who loves to play tough-nosed defense and control the clock and tempo of the game with a strong rushing attack. His offensive stats as a head coach echo these sentiments.
When it comes to rushing the ball, Fox’s Carolina Panthers finished in the Top Ten in rushing attempts five times in the nine years he was at the helm. This concept of a “run-first” mentality came to fruition in 2008 when the Panthers ranked third in yards per rush, first in rushing touchdowns, and second in rushing yards per game.
Conversely, the passing stats of his offenses could be literally construed as offensive.
For instance, only once did a Fox led team rank in the Top Ten in passing attempts. This same trend is evident with regard to passing yards as well. Again, the Panthers broke the Top Ten only one time during Fox’s tenure as head coach.
Before fans start losing their collective minds and think Denver will never throw the ball, there is one player that has proven receivers can succeed on a John Fox team and his success should bode well for Brandon Lloyd.
The player? Steve Smith.
Before suffering numerous injuries over the past few years, Smith was widely regarded as one of the deadliest receivers in the league.
Under Fox, Smith was able to eclipse the 1,000-yard barrier five times in his career—including four consecutive seasons. This stretch included two seasons where he boasted 1,563 receiving yards and 1,421 yards receiving yards, respectively.
The success of Smith should help to alleviate some of the tension the Broncos receivers might be feeling at this point. It isn’t that John Fox refuses to throw, he just likes to set it up with the run first.
Fox likes to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers, and Brandon Lloyd is certainly one of those for the Denver Broncos.
Coach Fox may not like some of the talent he has on his team right now, but it is foolish for anyone to think that Lloyd will be a casualty of the new Fox regime.
The new coach should not affect Lloyd’s production as much as one is inclined to think.
As stated before, Brandon Lloyd was one of the few bright spots on a terrible Denver Broncos team.
The energy that he displayed game in and game out leads one to believe that he is more than capable of having another high-flying season filled with the circus catches and body contortions that Broncos fans have grown accustom to—and may start to expect.
It is hard for one to believe that he could turn into a “diva” type receiver if his targets start to go down. The impression that he gives is one of gratitude and humility.
He recognizes that it is a privilege—not a right—to play in the NFL and he has seen what it is like to essentially be out of the league. His play on the field coupled with his demeanor toward fans and media emulate a man that knows how quickly it all can fade away.
He thinks every ball is a catchable ball and literally plays every down as if it is his last.
Keeping this in mind, this determination and focus allows me to think that he will indeed duplicate his 2010 success in 2011.
Other receivers will get their touches, the running game will be improved, and the QB situation will get resolved.
John Fox may be “Old School”, but history has indicated that he does have enough sense to recognize who his talent is and how he can most effectively utilize said talent.
So look for Brandon Lloyd to once again lead the Broncos in receiving, and once again compete for a Pro Bowl spot.