The term “breakout season” was invented to define efforts like the one Brandon Lloyd delivered in 2010.
When the journeyman wide receiver joined the Broncos it was very likely that he was being given his last chance in the NFL. However, when Lloyd finally got his spot in the lineup at the end of 2009, his performance made sure that it couldn’t be taken away from him.
The pride of Blue Springs High School became a fantasy hero and left fans breathless with his acrobatic catches. He was one of the lone bright spots in an otherwise dismal season.
So, can the Broncos count on that type of production again?
This is where the term “breakout” needs to be revisited. Unfortunately, I (and many other experts) may have been premature in using the term “breakout” to describe Lloyd.
Usually that particular title is applied retroactively, once a player has maintained a high level of excellence for a number of years.
Some players like Randy Moss do it right out of the gate as a rookie, while Rod Smith took three seasons to break out. Still others, like New England’s Wes Welker, required over five years and multiple changes of scenery to do it.
The latter example bares the closest resemblance to Lloyd’s ascension and hopefully nets the same results.
The difference, however, is that Welker went into the next season with the same quarterback and head coach. Lloyd may not even have half the equation that led to his success remain the same in 2011.
Those factors alone seem to add up to Lloyd not being able to repeat his stellar 2010 campaign.
Conventional wisdom says that a run heavy offense like Fox’s will deliver a blow to Brandon Lloyd’s statistics due to a lack of passing. That may be true but what might really eat into his targets and yardage is the possibility that Denver will not fall behind as quickly or as often.
It’s no secret that Lloyd’s stats were helped immensely by the teams constant pass-happy playing from behind game plan. Even though there needs to be drastic improvement on both sides of the ball to keep from falling behind, a reliance on running helps to keep games closer and that is Fox’s goal.
The potential change in quarterback is also a sign that some will point to as causing a decline in Lloyd’s production. However, Tebow demonstrated a decent ability to get the ball downfield in his starts and Lloyd’s production did not suffer as much as some would have expected.
While Broncos fans should be hopeful that Brandon Lloyd’s performance last year was not an anomaly, they should not be hoping for a repeat performance.
A repeat performance will signal that no growth has been made by the Broncos, and that there is no effort to create a more well rounded offensive attack.
That is not to say that a pounding running game and a statistically healthy wide receiver cannot co-exist. Lloyd can certainly still be capable of a 1,000 yard season but he needs to do a better job of converting targets into catches.
Lloyd was targeted 153 times last season and came away with only 77 catches on the year. The first number is very likely to go down, so Brandon needs to make sure he is catching at least two thirds of the balls thrown his way.
In the end, the changes on offense will not be so drastic that Brandon Lloyd will not be given the opportunity to repeat his 2010 performance.
Even though Lloyd will most likely not approach 1,500 yards receiving this coming season, he should still manage to be at or near 1,000 yards and seven to nine touchdowns.
2011 should solidify that Lloyd did in fact “break out” last season.