By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 13, 2006
It is generally customary to hear Brandon Lloyd first before seeing him. The laugh, loud and deep, doesn't exactly fit the lithe body of a speedy wide receiver, but it nevertheless serves as a distinctive calling card.
While the personality has arrived, Lloyd's other traits -- the remarkable athletic catches that unnerved defenses last season, the field-stretching talents that prompted cornerback Shawn Springs to call Lloyd a "human highlight reel" after Lloyd was acquired from San Francisco in March -- have yet to make their Washington debut.
As transitions go, the Washington Redskins' offseason acquisitions have, with the exception of slot receiver Antwaan Randle El, been something of a work in progress. Defensive end Andre Carter is fighting through doubt and the pressure of making a big first impression, but said after Sunday's 19-3 loss to the Giants that he felt he played his most physical game and believes he's turned a corner. Whether in coverage, scheme or other on-field responsibilities, safety Adam Archuleta is second on the team in tackles -- according to league statistics that differ dramatically from the numbers compiled by the Redskins -- but says he is adapting to a system so completely foreign from his base of familiarity in St. Louis. Tight end Christian Fauria has two catches and hasn't been an impact blocker.
With an upgraded wide receiving corps, Lloyd has not yet gotten into the act. In five games, he has six catches for 75 yards. Over his first four games with the 49ers last season, Lloyd caught 17 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns with a long of 89 yards. His longest this season is 33 yards.
Meanwhile, wide receiver Santana Moss has 20 catches for 365 yards and Randle El has 14 receptions.
For his part, Lloyd's belief in himself leaves him unbowed. While the introspective Carter can be hurt by criticism and the perfectionist Archuleta is rebuilding his confidence, Lloyd said he was unfazed by his slow start.
"You always want to make a big splash, but the people who brought me here know why they brought me here, so I don't feel I need to prove anything to anybody," Lloyd said. "I know what I can do. My teammates know what I can do. They played against me, and we'll see how it goes and eventually we'll be able to turn it around."
Lloyd's consistency had been a trademark since becoming a starter in 2004, when he started 13 games with San Francisco and caught at least one pass in each. Last season, he was shut out in Week 4 against Indianapolis, but caught passes in 11 straight games, finishing with a total of 48 catches for 733 yards and five touchdowns.
But in his first quarter-season with the Redskins, Lloyd has been shut out twice, in the season opener against Minnesota and last week against the New York Giants. It was the first time since becoming a starter that he has twice failed to catch a pass in the same season.
When the Redskins demonstrably upgraded their wide receivers a year after Moss represented the only true threat at the position, Coach Joe Gibbs and associate head coach Al Saunders had been charged with the task of finding opportunities in the passing game for each player. After five games, Lloyd and David Patten -- who has one reception -- have not found their roles in the new offense. The difference is that Lloyd is the Redskins' second wide receiver and is on the field as much as any receiver, Moss included. Patten was a healthy inactive for the first time in his career in Sunday's loss.
"We've got playmakers in our offense and it's about time we get the ball to them. I think in the two games that we won, that was the case," Gibbs said. "Certainly Brandon's in there all the time, at least most of the time on pass routes. We'd like to be productive with all those guys. When we struggled, it's because we haven't gotten the ball downfield. When you're not getting the ball downfield, your playmakers there aren't getting it."
Against the Giants, Lloyd had two passes thrown in his direction, a deep route over the middle in the first quarter and a slicing route later in the game.
Even his biggest game to date was checkered. In the Redskins' 36-30 overtime win against Jacksonville, Lloyd caught three passes for 49 yards, but his crucial fourth-quarter fumble fueled the Jaguars' comeback that forced overtime.
"We're trying to get the ball to him a little bit more because we know about his athletic ability, his catching ability," Redskins receivers coach Stan Hixon said. "Obviously last ballgame we didn't have an opportunity. I thought in the Jacksonville game, he showed a little bit of the surface of why he's here. We just need to get the ball to him. We tried to hit him on an end route against the Giants, and we missed it. He's been great for us. We just need to do more with him."
Lloyd and Hixon both said that Lloyd and quarterback Mark Brunell were easing into a comfort zone. During the first month of the season, Brunell's history with Moss and tight end Chris Cooley is apparent.
"With him and Mark and all the receivers, it comes from practice and opportunities that happen in the ballgame," Hixon said. "In practice, Mark is feeling better and better. Obviously, last year with Santana and Chris he felt really good, and the chemistry was there. He's still working with Brandon and Randle El."
For Lloyd, who signed a six-year, $30 million contract, there's a deeper issue than merely proving he's worth the money.
"I want to prove [myself] to my teammates," he said. "They've seen me make all those plays for another team. I'm new to them and they want to see it for their team, also. So, yeah, I feel that."