By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 29, 2007
As a high-priced free agent acquisition, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd infamously announced his presence in his first season with the Washington Redskins.
He clashed with associate head coach-offense Al Saunders, and for tossing his helmet in a late-season home loss wound up in a closed-door meeting with Coach Joe Gibbs that led to the loss of his starting job for the final four games of the season.
It was a season long on confrontations but short on results. He signed a six-year, $30 million contract with nearly $12 million guaranteed in April 2006, but his Redskins debut was, at least statistically -- and compounded by free agent expectations -- one of the worst seasons in the history of the NFL.
Lloyd, 26, did not play in the final game of the season because of illness, but his demotion, which began after a meeting with Gibbs following a Dec. 3 home loss to Atlanta, continues. Saunders said yesterday that Antwaan Randle El will be alongside Santana Moss in the starting lineup. Lloyd last started in the 24-14 loss to the Falcons last season.
"Antwaan is the starter and Brandon is the backup because that's the way we ended it last year," Saunders said.
Yesterday, Lloyd made his first public comments since his December meeting with Gibbs, and he was stoic. He said he had "no idea" how his first season in Washington could have gone so wrong, and that he did not see being placed third on the depth chart as particularly significant.
"That doesn't mean a lot to me. We run so many three-wide situations," he said. "Last year we started every game three-wide and probably ran 90 percent of our plays in three-wide sets, so I'm going to get my share of passes and whatever I need to do to help the team, I'll do it."
The Redskins started nine games in three-wide sets last season and on a team that traditionally attempts to play down the significance of the starting role, Saunders made the clear distinction.
"I just need to go out and catch balls, continue to run good routes, continue to make big plays," Lloyd said. "I feel like I need to continue to run routes and continue to block. Everything. I need to improve at everything."
Physically, Lloyd looks considerably larger than last year. He said he would play at about eight pounds over last year's weight.
According to NFL.com, Lloyd suffered through the worst season for a starting receiver in the Super Bowl era.
He was healthy for the majority of the year, yet did not score a touchdown. No starting No. 2 wide receiver in the NFL started more games (12) while producing less (23 catches, 365 yards). Lloyd did not rank in the top 60 in the NFL in either yards or receptions.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Lloyd's 23 catches tied him for 146th in the league.
His 365 yards left him in sole possession of 111th place.
Meanwhile, Lloyd clashed on the sideline with coaches and teammates during games at Indianapolis and New Orleans.
In his career, Lloyd's teams are 10-31 in the games that he has started and yet after his meeting with Gibbs, he said, "I have an attitude that is good for a winning team."
He does, however, have support. Cornerback Shawn Springs and Lloyd worked out together in Scottsdale, Ariz. Lloyd said he worked out six days a week, twice a day.
"I can't think of too many guys I've ever played with that have the ability that Brandon has," Springs said. "That's why I wanted to work out with him as a veteran guy. He can do anything he wants on a football field. He's got that much talent."
In March, Lloyd and Gibbs met at the Biltmore Hotel.
Gibbs said the meeting was productive.
"We expect him to be an impact player," Gibbs said. "He looked very good in the OTA days. He's a big part of this team, and we are counting on him. We invested a lot in him and I would certainly hope that he has a great year. Hopefully he steps up and we have a great year."
The fit in 2006 was not ideal. Lloyd chafed that quarterbacks Mark Brunell and later Jason Campbell were not looking for him enough; the coaches began gravitating toward Randle El because of his apparently greater willingness to go over the middle.
"Santana Moss is an established receiver as far as playmaking ability and all-pro status. Antwaan Randle El is established and experienced and has a Super Bowl ring," Lloyd said. "James Thrash has played in the league for 11 seasons, and we have a handful of guys that are leaders. You just fall in place and try to learn as much as you can."