As I wrote in yesterday’s practice report, I don’t see Brandon Lloyd earning a spot on the 49ers 53-man roster. Not with Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Stevie Johnson already locked in.
But isn’t he a unique receiver who provides the kind of “deep threat” option the 49ers are looking for? Sounds enticing, but keeping such a niche player on the off chance he makes a 30-yard grab once every four games seems far-fetched.
- Unless Johnson is a total bust during training camp, he’s ahead of Lloyd because he’s younger and stronger.
- Lloyd would get very few snaps as a No. 4 WR who doesn’t play special teams.
- The 49ers aren’t cutting Quinton Patton or Bruce Ellington.
- If they carry six receivers, I’d bet the sixth ends up being Kassim Osgood.
So why is Lloyd in camp? He says he hoped to rejoin his first NFL team, but only when the time was right.
“I’ve always wanted to explore my options to come back and play for San Francisco. The first time I was here, the team wasn’t winning like the teams in the past that made people fall in love with the 49ers. When I was younger, I was in love with the winning attitude, culture that the team had. When I was finally able to play for the team, it no longer had that. Now the team does have that and San Francisco has always held a special place in my heart. So I didn’t explore any other options. I wanted to return to San Francisco and maybe bring a certain amount of closure to my career,” said Lloyd.
Today Jim Harbaugh raved about Lloyd’s eccentric meeting habits.
“Brandon Lloyd and I, we made friends right off the bat. Allies right off the bat. He’s the kind of guy I connect with. I enjoy the heck out of him. He does this thing in meetings I have not seen before. Go through his route, and all the sudden he goes through his swim move. And sometimes he’ll stand up, and do a jab step,” said Harbaugh, while mimicking Lloyd’s movements.
“I’ve never seen a guy at any level go through a meeting like that. It makes me giggle, giddy to watch him doing that. That’s awesome. I wish I could’ve seen that earlier in my career and adopted that into my meeting game.”
But Lloyd’s job isn’t to dazzle Harbaugh with meeting weirdness. So if he isn’t there to entertain the fellas, and the 49ers aren’t going to completely alter their offense to throw multiple sideline passes to a third or fourth receiver whose style leans decidedly toward the finesse side of things, there’s got to be some reason.
I’m going to give it a shot.
He’s there to improve the secondary.
The 49ers’ top three receivers aren’t carbon copies of each other, but they’re strong, possession-type receivers. Most teams don’t count a tight end as their main deep threat. The 49ers have a ton of young corners in camp, players who could use some experience against receivers who aren’t like Crabtree, Boldin and Stevie Johnson.
Yesterday rookie cornerback Dontae Johnson said Lloyd is the toughest cover of any receiver on the team.
“I feel like going against him allows me to be more patient in route recognition and understanding what receivers really are trying to do to a DB to try to get open in certain situations … Just understanding his tempo and demeanor coming off the ball has really helped me to relax and be patient,” Johnson said.
“I haven’t played in the league, but I promise you he’s probably the best in the league at doing that. Just from practice and just watching film, he’s very consistent with his short, intermediate and deep routes — he runs them all the same. He makes them look the same and runs them at a great, great tempo.”
Lloyd didn’t sign with the 49ers to tutor young corners. He wants a job, and he’s been very productive throughout the offseason workouts and practices. However, it sounds like he knows he’s there to provide a service no one else on the roster probably can.
“Going against the defensive backs and there not being a lot of dialogue about what we do technically, the best thing I can do is be consistent with them and then they can pick up on that and improve on that,” Lloyd said.
“When I came in and was talking with Chris Cook, I told him I would throw everything I have at him and we’ll all get better as we move.”
If one of the top five receivers goes down with a significant injury, Lloyd will almost certainly make the team. But if things go according to plan, the 49ers would get more out of Lloyd’s presence during training camp than they ever could when the games count.