Acrobatic Lloyd key part of Patriots passing game
"You could be in good position" covering him, Gregory said, "but the ball could be thrown in a place where he can move his body to go get it and it kind of takes you out of the play."
That athleticism was there when Lloyd was on the track team at Blue Springs High School in Missouri. His leaping ability was evident when he competed in hurdles races and the high jump, clearing the bar at a personal-best of 7 feet, 2 inches.
"I was a high jumper in high school and college," he said, "so that shows how much agility that I do have and I think that all factors in."
Shifting his body to soar over the bar is impressive. Doing it while trying to elude a cornerback, leaping for a pass and staying inbounds is a greater challenge.
"I know when I'm running out of room," he said. "I just try to get my feet down secure the catch and go down."
It's a challenge Lloyd thinks about a lot.
"I think about the spatial awareness that I want to have when I'm catching the ball, the positions that I'm in," he said. "Those are the things that I think about and I visualize in my personal time."
His catches have been particularly important because of injuries that have sidelined the Patriots star tight ends.
Rob Gronkowski has missed four games with a broken left forearm but practiced on a limited basis all week and is one of 19 Patriots listed as questionable for Sunday's game. Aaron Hernandez missed six games this season with an ankle injury but has played in the last four with 28 catches in that span, 10 of them against the 49ers.
But none of those catches were as acrobatic as some Lloyd makes.
"The first thing we said when he got here was he was almost like a worm," safety Devin McCourty said. "He could just torque different positions to make some catches."
At least McCourty was prepared to face that in practice. His twin brother Jason is a cornerback for the Tennessee Titans and had played against Lloyd.
"My brother texted me. He was like, 'he's good,' " McCourty said. "He said, 'not many people talk about him but we played them and it was just tough to cover him all game.' There are definitely other good receivers in this league, but I don't think anyone that's like him."
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