FOXBOROUGH — He might be able to leap over a moving car — more on that later — but receiver Brandon Lloyd is hoping the second half of the Patriots’ season finds him jumping into the end zone more often.
Lloyd, signed to a three-year, $12 million deal in the offseason, began his Patriots career with a bang: five catches in Week 1, eight the next week, then a season-high nine (for a season-high 108 yards) the week after that.
Save for a six-catch, 80-yard game at Seattle, Lloyd’s numbers have dipped a bit since those first three weeks. He’s been held to three receptions or fewer in four of the Patriots’ last five games, including a single 6-yard grab in the overtime win against the Jets on Oct. 21.
His most recent game — the 45-7 victory over the Rams in London — saw Lloyd catch just two passes. Both, though, went for touchdowns, possibly a positive sign as the Patriots get set to come off their bye week with a home game on Sunday with the Bills.
Despite the week off, can Lloyd carry over that momentum of getting into the end zone?
“It was two catches,” he said.
True, but both went for touchdowns. Won’t that help his confidence?
“It was two catches, two touchdowns,” Lloyd said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”
Lloyd has made it his goal of establishing good chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady, but knew it wouldn’t happen overnight. Halfway into his first season, it remains very much a work in progress.
For Lloyd, and for Brady.
“I think I said earlier, in the spring, that I don’t think this year we’ll be at a point where we’re like, ‘All right, we got it,’ because we still have so much work to do,” Lloyd said. “We’re working hard to improve on that, week by week and day by day, but it’s a group effort, and that’s what we’re moving forward with.”
Said Brady: “I hope it keeps getting better. We just keep working at it, so we go out there in practice and we work on things and Coach [Bill Belichick] tells us things that we need to do better. We’re always trying to make those improvements. I think you just have to keep going out there to work at it and see if it can be better each day.”
With 37 receptions for 435 yards and three touchdowns, Lloyd is on pace to challenge his career high of 77 catches, which came two seasons ago with the Broncos when he piled up a career-best 1,448 yards. That number appears safe, barring an exceptional second half, but Lloyd can become a dangerous complementary piece, combining with receiver Wes Welker and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to give Brady plenty of powerful options through the air.
That’s the great aspect of the Patriots’ offense. It could be a different standout every week, either from a pass catcher or running back Stevan Ridley.
“The teams that I’ve been on, regardless how talented that I’ve been compared to other pass catchers, I’ve never been declared a No. 1 target, like a Larry Fitzgerald or a Calvin Johnson, where it’s clear,” said Lloyd, who is in his 10th season, but is already on his sixth organization. “Coming to a team like this, it’s natural for me, to make sure that the chemistry between me and Tom is there so when he needs me as an option, I’ll be available for him. They want me to be open, and they want me to catch the ball.”
Targeted 69 times this season, Brady and Lloyd are missing almost as often as they’re connecting. What felt forced early in the season is now a normal part of the offense: Lloyd, working mostly on the outside, using his speed and jumping ability to make plays downfield.
That jumping ability was on display in a video that surfaced this week from over the summer, when Lloyd appeared to leap over a Smart Car moving at 35 miles an hour. Impressive, but Patriots fans would prefer to see him soaring into end zones in the second half of the season, when championships are decided and playoff posturing begins.
“It seems like the games are a lot bigger, they mean more, they’re more important coming into the second half of the season, coming into November and December,” Lloyd said. “Things are starting to shake out in the conferences and the divisions, so you have stuff you can look forward to, stuff that you can improve on.”