Playbook: Lloyd a low-risk addition

With less touchdowns (four) than they have losses this season (five), the Rams were desperate for some kind of weapon on offense. By adding Brandon Lloyd on Monday, St. Louis truly had nothing to lose –- other than a late-round pick in April’s draft.

The genius of this move rests in the fact that Lloyd already knows Josh McDaniels‘ offense. Lloyd will become the best route runner in St. Louis once he straps on a Rams uniform and should be the most experienced receiver in this offense before he’s handed a playbook.

But while Lloyd knows the offense inside and out, how much of an impact can he make with Sam Bradford?

In his second NFL season, and his first in McDaniels’ system, Bradford is going through a rare “Rookie season: Part 2”. The upside displayed in 2010 — the poise, the quick release — has been stifled because of a canceled summer of OTAs and the departure of former coordinator Pat Shurmur’s offense.

McDaniels’ system calls for more five- and seven-step drops, which forces Bradford to sit in the pocket and read more complex route combinations. And he doesn’t feel too comfortable behind a struggling offensive line (he’s probably been having nightmares about Brian Orakpo since Week 4).

Lloyd might not offer much speed or run-after-the catch ability to group that ranks dead last in that category (3.1 yards-after-catch average), but he will get open. He’s among the best in the league at making every route look like the same, priding himself in making all of his route stems appear to be “go” routes -– even if he’s got a comeback in the bag.

The Rams have little to lose in this deal, because there’s no need to educate Lloyd midseason. In fact, he might teach Bradford a thing or two.

But if Bradford can’t find him, or if he’s missing time while in a walking boot, the Rams have much bigger problems than at wide receiver.


Bryan Bulaga remained at right tackle in his return to the starting lineup for Green Bay. That meant Marshall Newhouse, who initially replaced Bulaga on the right side, remained at left tackle in Chad Clifton‘s absence. That’s showing a lot of faith in Newhouse — or the Packers just wanted to move as few parts as possible in anticipation of Clifton’s return. Newhouse played well and looked comfortable against rookie edge rusher Robert Quinn and kept Aaron Rodgers clean

Despite a win, Tom Brady was not so clean. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was able to get Brady off his spot and make him uncomfortable (three sacks and eight quarterback hits). You saw a lot of what you would expect from Ryan –- linebackers and defensive backs on the line pre-snap, linemen dropping into coverage (Jay Ratliff), delayed blitzes –- getting one-on-one matchups for Marcus Spears and DeMarcus Ware

Cam Newton, sooner or later, has to learn how to move in the pocket. He can run when he puts his mind to it, he can pass when he is protected, but when a rush is coming straight up the gut Newton still can’t keep his eyes downfield and move himself within the cradle. On a few occasions, he was inaccurate on throws because he was trying to throw with a man in his face – instead of using a subtle step to his right or left and firing a dart to an open receiver …

Patrick Willis, one of the best linebackers in the league, was excellent in pass coverage, mostly against Brandon Pettigrew. While the Lions tight end had a touchdown catch, Willis -– and on occasion, Navorro Bowman — locked up Matthew Stafford‘s favorite intermediate target (Pettigrew was targeted 14 times) and limited him to eight catches for a measly 42 yards. That’s an average of three yards per target …

Adrian Clayborn, a rookie out of Iowa, is playing like an absolute animal right now. We’ve seen him use his speed to get around offensive tackles, but against Jermon Bushrod he used a two-handed bull rush to press the pocket on Drew Brees. He didn’t have a sack, and has only two on the season, but he is producing plenty of heat off the edge for the Bucs.

“Playbook” -— the ultimate football Xs and Os show -— airs Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook

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