The San Francisco 49ers needed help at the wide receiver position after the 2013 season. Through free agency, trades, and the draft they have addressed this need. One of the new receivers they have brought in to compete for a roster spot is Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd hasn’t played in the NFL since the 2012 season and, upon his signing, not many people gave him a shot at making the roster. However, Lloyd provides the 49ers with something they have needed a lot of help with over the past few years.
That area is red zone efficiency. In 2013, the 49ers scored a touchdown on 53 percent of their trips inside the red zone. In their last three games last season that percentage was at a meager 36 percent. After minicamps this offseason, the 49ers might have found their answer to this problem.
When asked about Lloyd during OTAs this offseason, head coach Jim Harbaugh said he had been seeing really good things out of him.
“Seeing surge off the line of scrimmage. He’s got the ability to burst at the top of his routes,” Harbaugh said, according to a transcript from the club. “Runs excellent routes. Acrobatic type of catches that he’s able to make. Really good hands.” When asked about Lloyd’s year long hiatus from football Harbaugh responded with, “No, it does not seem like a guy that’s had a layoff from football for a year.”
Harbaugh isn’t the only person Lloyd impressed during OTAs. He also impressed his starting quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. During red zone drills, Kaepernick would talk to Lloyd most often. When asked about that, Kaepernick responded, “I think that’s something that we know we’ve struggled with here – the red zone. And that’s something we’re constantly trying to improve. And he’s had success down there. So if there’s something we can pick up from him, how he runs routes, how he sets things up, that’s something we want to take and try to make it ours.”
What makes Lloyd such a threat in the red zone is that he doesn’t need much space to make catches. He can make catches just about anywhere they’re thrown and finds ways to get his feet inbounds. And also due to his experiences, he has great awareness of exactly where he’s at on the field. All of these skills are incredible assets when the team is in the red zone and needs a touchdown. One other thing that helps Lloyd out are his hands. Like Harbaugh referenced, Lloyd will make catches that not many other receivers in the league could make.
With the 49ers’ new weapons in their passing attack, it would be extremely surprising if their red zone numbers didn’t go up this season. But the addition of Brandon Lloyd could be the addition that makes the biggest difference when the 49ers make it into the red zone. Especially considering Lloyd will most likely be covered by the other team’s third or fourth best defensive back. I expect Lloyd to have an average season overall, but the 49ers don’t need him anywhere but the red zone. That is the are where Lloyd will shine.