Lloyd Hoping to Become Triple Threat

Can rookie running back MarShawn Lloyd be an instant-impact performer for the Green Bay Packers? That will depend on whether he is ready for action in the passing game.
MarShawn Lloyd works with running backs coach Ben Sirmans at Packers minicamp.
MarShawn Lloyd works with running backs coach Ben Sirmans at Packers minicamp. / Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – When the Green Bay Packers drafted AJ Dillon in the second round in 2020, he barely played behind Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. This year’s third-round pick, MarShawn Lloyd, could have a much bigger role if he can be a three-down player.

There’s little question about Lloyd’s ability as a runner. Boosted by 3.97 yards after contact per rushing attempt, his 7.10-yard average at USC ranked among the highest in the nation. That explosive ability has been evident during the offseason practices.

“I think it’s tough right now just with practice what we’re doing, no pads, not live,” quarterback Jordan Love said. “But you can see just how instinctual he is, his cuts, things like that. He’s like a little rocket back there. He’s got a lot of speed. I think when we get live, he’s going to be a hard guy to tackle and bring down. There’s definitely going to be room for him to get in that lineup and make plays.”

Lloyd will get on the field. But will he stay on the field?

That will be determined based on his value in the passing game. It’s that phase where he has a lot to prove.

As a receiver, there’s not much of a track record. In two seasons at South Carolina and one at USC, Lloyd caught 34 passes. With the Trojans, he caught 13-of-18 passes (not good) but for 232 yards (excellent 17.8-yard average). It’s not that he can’t catch; he just wasn’t asked to do it often.

Catching the ball will “definitely” be his focus during the five-week break until training camp, he said at Packers minicamp on Tuesday.

“Just being able to be available as a pass catcher – being able to use my abilities to make people miss and be used in space – I feel like that’s something I’m going to work on this whole offseason,” Lloyd said.

“It’s been pretty good. I feel like they’ve been using me pretty good and in different ways. I’m super-excited about the season. I’m just going to keep pushing throughout this whole break and just getting better and better each day.”

The other part of the passing game is pass protection. That’s been a priority for the Packers for years. Running backs who can’t protect generally don’t get on the field.

There’s not much of a track record there, either. According to Pro Football Focus, Lloyd had 85 pass-protecting snaps in three seasons. At USC, he had 19 in his first 10 games last season before providing 13 spotless snaps against UCLA in his final collegiate game.

Just like catching the ball, just because Lloyd didn’t protect much in college doesn’t mean he can’t do it. At 5-foot-8 3/4 and 220 pounds, he at least possesses the sturdy frame to step up and block a blitzing linebacker.

“We had a high-powered offense,” Lloyd explained. “So, there was sometimes where we’ll have a pass protection and then we’ll have a route. Sometimes, teams didn’t blitz as much because of what they were afraid of on the outside and with our quarterback, so we didn’t get blitzed as much.

“Being able to play the running back position, we’ve got to be able to protect. So, that’s something I’ve always known how to do. Been doing it since high school, been doing it at South Carolina, Southern California – been doing it at both the USCs – so it’s something that I’ve really heaped into my game.”

Just like Dillon in 2020, Lloyd has joined a veteran backfield with Josh Jacobs and Dillon atop the depth chart. Also like Dillon in 2020, the veteran backs have been welcoming and helpful in getting the rookie ready to roll.

“Everybody that watches his game, even I told him when we got him, I was like, ‘Man, he reminds me a lot of me,’” Jacobs said. “So, I’m excited to be able to see what he can do. And I told him that. I said, ‘You’re coming in, they drafted you early, they drafted you to produce.’

“And I’m one of the vets where when I came in I had a lot of guys that were willing to take me under their wing and teach me. For him, that’s all I try to do. Try to help him with certain things I see or how to learn certain ways that I learned the playbook or whatever. Hopefully, he can put his own spin on it and be successful.”

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Bill Huber

BILL HUBER

Bill Huber, who has covered the Green Bay Packers since 2008, is the publisher of Packer Central, a Sports Illustrated channel. E-mail: packwriter2002@yahoo.com History: Huber took over Packer Central in August 2019. Twitter: https://twitter.com/BillHuberNFL Background: Huber graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he played on the football team, in 1995. He worked in newspapers in Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells and Shawano before working at The Green Bay News-Chronicle and Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1998 through 2008. With The News-Chronicle, he won several awards for his commentaries and page design. In 2008, he took over as editor of Packer Report Magazine, which was founded by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke, and PackerReport.com. In 2019, he took over the new Sports Illustrated site Packer Central, which he has grown into one of the largest sites in the Sports Illustrated Media Group.