It's no secret that New England Patriots wide receiver Brandon Lloyd has been criticized quite heavily in his first season with the team and I certainly can't exclude myself from that group of criticizers. There was much expected from the veteran wideout as Lloyd has been pretty solid for the Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams over the past couple seasons and the Pats have been looking for an outside receiver for years following Randy Moss' departure. Lloyd hasn't been bad this season, but he also hasn't blown anyone away which caused the criticism that Lloyd recently responded to as seen in Mike Reiss' ESPN.com piece.

"I feel like a lot of times when players get in a situation where the media wants to talk about production, and the player says, 'Yeah, I want the ball more,' it's a little disrespectful to the guys," Lloyd said, when asked if he was aware of growing criticism from the likes of Brown, among others. "We're all working. We're all doing our best. Sometimes the matchups don't match up. I'm working hard, I'm available, and that's all I can really do.

"I've gone through this before. The intentions are the same for all players that face this situation -- [if they say they want the ball], they don't mean to be disrespectful to their teammates or call anybody out, but sometimes it gets taken that way.

"I respect my teammates," he continued. "I believe in them and in their talent. I trust the coaching staff is doing everything in their powers for us to be successful and win games, which is the goal. I'm 100 percent on board with the direction this organization is going. Period."

I think most would agree that he handled that questioning quite well. And he made some decent points in the process. Whenever you look at a player's performance you always need to look at opportunity before locking down your stance on that player's output. Lloyd has been on the field for just about 86 percent of the Pats offensive snaps so far this season, which would indicate that he's getting plenty of opportunities. However, when he's on the field it's tough to ignore that he's without a doubt the third, sometimes fourth or fifth option on that field depending on who is healthy and who is in a particular set.

So it's tough to say whether Lloyd has struggled to get open or if Tom Brady just prefers other options. Lloyd had just one reception on one target last week (13) in Miami. Did he play poorly or did Brady just want to make sure Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez were heavily involved? Those are obviously the guys Brady has played with for longer (not to mention Rob Gronkowski when he is healthy and Deion Branch when he got himself on the field) and trusts a bit more, so maybe Lloyd's number can't exactly explain his performance. Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe argued Wednesday that it's more about the game plan than it is about Lloyd.

Most NFL teams have a saying when it comes to passing offense: “Take the easy money.” That means, take the higher-percentage play even if it might not be a big play. Keep the clock and the chains moving. The Patriots and Brady seem to live by this credo, outside of a few designed shots down the field. Welker and Hernandez, who combined for 20 of Brady’s 24 completions, were the easy money when matched up against the Dolphins linebackers.

Lloyd, who often runs slow-developing downfield routes, is almost never the easy money. That’s just the way it goes.

Of course, it's probably a useless exercise to criticize anything to do with the Patriots offense considering how impressive it has been. When you are part of what would probably be agreed upon as the best offense in the entire NFL, you can't be playing too poorly. Lloyd may not be putting up staggering numbers but he must be doing something right.

James Bucklin 12/10/2012 01:16:00 PM Edit

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