ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Lloyd isn’t catching any deep passes in John Fox’s conservative, run-oriented offense, and he’s letting his quarterback and his coaches know just how he feels about it.
Kyle Orton and Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said Lloyd has asked to be more involved in the offense even as opponents roll a safety over the top to bracket him in double-coverage.
A year after leading the league with 1,448 yards receiving, Lloyd said he thinks he’s being underused by the Broncos. He had 17 catches of 25 or more yards last year and none of his 10 catches so far this season have gone for more than 20 yards.
“It’s not like we’re not trying to get him the ball,” McCoy said.
Fox pointed to a strained groin as one reason for the dearth of downfield chances for Lloyd. Orton noted that Lloyd’s getting a lot of attention from defensive coordinators and the flow of the games has dictated a different approach.
Lloyd said Denver’s offensive doctrine is the primary culprit.
“I think it’s just us, the coaching staff, staying true to the philosophy of running the ball,” Lloyd said Thursday. “I think we’ve kind of gotten in game management mode, as opposed to an aggressive, take-control mode. I think that’s what has limited us.”
So far, the Broncos have called plays that have led to long, time-consuming drives that rely on a heavy diet of runs and underneath passes and not the quick-strike deep ball that was featured so often in 2010.
Orton said Lloyd is commanding so much attention after his breakout season but the Broncos will certainly capitalize on his speed and athleticism at some point.
“He’ll have to stay patient,” Orton said.
And healthy, Fox suggested.
“He was hobbled in the fourth quarter of the opener, missed the whole second game. It’s hard to be any kind of a threat when you don’t have a uniform,” Fox said. “I don’t think he was 100 percent” last week, when he caught four passes for 38 yards at Tennessee. “I’d say that was a little bit of a reason.”
“I’m healthy,” Lloyd countered.
“I mean, I’m not frustrated, but I want to go down the field more,” he added. “I think that just helps us. I feel like we play better when we have a lead. I think that explosive pass plays hurt a defense more, when you can get big chunks passing the ball and running the ball.”
Lloyd said if McCoy wants to get him the ball, he would design the plays to beat the double coverages.
“I think there’s still a niche that I have and a talent, a skill-set, that should be used,” Lloyd said.
And he’s let his quarterback know it, too.
“Oh, yeah. I’ve been with Brandon a long time now and he always wants the ball,” Orton said. “And you always want your receivers to want the football. So, I just keep telling him to run his routes hard and we’ll hit them when they’re open.”
Despite his unhappiness, there’s no simmering controversy at Broncos headquarters.
Fox said he doesn’t mind players letting him know they’re displeased with their production.
“I think most competitors do (speak up). They all want to win,” Fox said.
McCoy said he, too, welcomes Lloyd’s input.
“Yeah, that’s the way we want it to be. We have an open door policy here and he’s a very talented player,” McCoy said. “Of course you want to get him the ball more. Have we played a certain style of offense the first three weeks of the season? Yes, but we’ll find ways to get him the ball.”
Wide receivers protesting their light workload is nothing new in the NFL.
“They’re all selfish. I mean, there’s only one football,” McCoy said. “The quarterback’s the only one who’s going to touch it every play. We have some very talented skilled players and you’d love to get them all the ball 10, 15 times a game, which you can’t.”
The Broncos might target Lloyd more at Green Bay on Sunday. For one thing, the Packers have allowed a ton of yards through the air and not so many on the ground. For another, Denver must try to neutralize star cornerback Charles Woodson, who can wreak havoc when he’s in a zone patrolling the short and intermediate passing lanes.
“The tough thing with him is you never know where he’s going to line up,” Orton said. “It might be corner, at nickel or at safety. He’s all over the field. He’s good wherever he’s at. He’s a playmaker and a ball hawk, so wherever he is you’ve got to be careful and make sure your guy’s open and Charles can’t make the play.”
The Broncos could stick with their time-consuming approach to keep Green Bay’s explosive offense on the sideline, but Orton noted that maintaining those sustained drives is difficult.
“We have to find a way (at some point) to steal a touchdown on a two- or three-play drive on a big play.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy worked with Lloyd during their time together with the San Francisco 49ers and he said he knows him too well to think he won’t use his speed and athleticism to get behind the defense Sunday, even if he hasn’t done it so far.
“I know Brandon Lloyd can go deep and catch the football,” McCarthy said. “We’re well aware of that and he’s still a threat to do that this week.”
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham contributed to this report. Connect with AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton at http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)