Last season the 49ers entered the year without Michael Crabtree, and soon lost Quinton Patton for much of the year shortly after. That left Anquan Boldin as the only reliable receiver left on the team with names like Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore filling out the rest of the depth chart. This year the team doesn't lack depth at wideout, the 49ers have exceptional depth. Pro bowl players such as Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Stevie Johnson, and Brandon Lloyd are on the roster, with young and promising players Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington rounding out the other options that are likely to make the team. Will this solid depth keep Brandon Lloyd from making the 49ers final 53 man roster? I think not
Some may remember Lloyd from his 49ers days, where he played as a 22 to 24 year old NFL new comer. Lloyd showed flashes of great play back then but it took a while for him to put a great year together. That great year didn't come until 2010, but boy did it come. On a national level, people started to know who Brandon Lloyd was, a field-stretching receiver with great hands and circus catch ability who can also pick up big chunks of yards after the catch. Lloyd put up 77 receptions in 2010 for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns.
That 2010 season, Lloyd was thrown to 147 times and dropped only four passes according to Pro Football Focus. Lloyd doesn't drop many passes, and he hates dropping them. "It’s just important in building trust with guys to do my job, to be accountable, and to make the plays when my number’s called," said Lloyd. "So I think that all factors in there. I think it was just obvious playing since I was young, and it’s just something that drives me in trying to be perfect out on the practice field." Lloyd said during 2012 training camp with the Patriots. He left an impression on current Browns starting quarterback Brian Hoyer then, "Even before he got here, I remember watching him and being like, ‘Man, how did he catch that?’" Hoyer said. "He catches balls that shouldn’t be caught and, as a quarterback, that’s always good because you know his catch radius is a little bit bigger than some other people."
But is he "done"?
Lloyd took the year off last season, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. A year off can lead to a re-charging of both body and mind. Lloyd did some cool things to stay in shape, he played in a tennis league, and combated the snow by snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Taking a year off didn't have anything to do with his play regressing, in 2012 Lloyd hauled in 74 receptions for New England and had his biggest game against the 49ers. Lloyd picked the 49ers secondary apart with ten receptions for 190 yards. Sign that guy! Oh wait, they did. Now, keep him!
Now you may be asking, "Well has he looked rusty in camp?" Quite the opposite. Lloyd has looked good from the beginning of camp, routinely gaining separation against the cornerbacks facing him, according to Colin Kaepernick.
Anquan Boldin has been getting along with Lloyd well also, and Ian Rappoport thinks Lloyd makes the roster:
Sounds like #49ers WR Brandon Lloyd has a real good chance to make the team. He’s fitting in, which is just as good news. Bonded with Boldin— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 20, 2014
"Honestly, it doesn't look like he took a year off," Boldin said. "I think that's the biggest thing we see as receivers: how smooth he is, getting in and out of his cuts." Not only has Lloyd made an impression on the field, he has made one off it as well, in the film room. "I think he's a great guy to have around," said Boldin. "We love having him in the meeting room. He definitely makes everything live. I think he fits in here."
Biggest Issue In Lloyd's Way
The biggest issue is keeping Lloyd could mean Kassim Osgood gets cut. Osgood, 33, has only 45 career receptions and is strictly a Special Teams player. While that facet of football is important and Osgood was a difference maker on Special Teams for the 49ers last season, the roster spot only gets you so much. As much as I love Kassim and his efforts for the 49ers, I rather have depth at receiver that can survive any injury because the next man up is going to be a damn good next man up.
By all accounts it appears the 49ers are ready to run some more three-wide receiver sets, especially when the match-up is against a mediocre secondary. The third receiver role could be a committee with Stevie Johnson, Lloyd, Bruce Ellington, and Quinton Patton all getting snaps. Many good options are going to lead to fresh legs in the fourth quarter and throughout the season, and if any injury occurs, it won't be as devastating. Receivers who have the ability to do all the right things at the position aren't easy to come by so the 49ers should let Lloyd go. While Lloyd may not put up huge numbers as a Niner, he is going to do things that will help this team win and the 49ers need 53 men like him. Lloyd belongs, he's never won a Super Bowl and is hungry to win one. Playing alongside Crabtree, Boldin, and the other receivers will push him to success through competition, and Lloyd will push them too, on the practice field and in the film room.
What do you think? should the 49ers keep Lloyd on their roster?