RB Marshawn Lloyd could be ‘matchup nightmare’ out of Packers’ backfield

New Green Bay Packers running back Marshawn Lloyd is coming to the NFL with relatively few opportunities in the passing game. However, Matt LaFleur sees that element as a key part of his contributions to this Packers team.

“He definitely can be a weapon out of the backfield,” said LaFleur. “I love all the measurables. He’s a 220-pound back that runs 4.4 and can run routes out of the backfield. I think he could be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.”

During Lloyd’s final two seasons at South Carolina and USC, he totaled just 43 targets during that span. For some context, at an average of just over 21 targets per season, that figure (21) in 2023 specifically would have ranked 99th out of all running backs.

Similarly to AJ Dillon when he was coming out of Boston College, he had very few in-game reps in the passing game, but as Brian Gutekunst mentioned following Day 2 of the NFL draft, having scouts at practices, attending the All-Star games, as well as watching at the combine give the Packers the confidence that Dillon, and now Lloyd, could impact the passing game.

“Very comfortable in the passing game,” said Lloyd after being drafted. “Definitely I feel like coach Lincoln Riley put me in really good positions to be able to, not having much routes but being very effective with it. I believe I had something like 17-plus yards a reception.

“I’m just being utilized in it as much as possible. I played with a team that had really good skills on the outside, a really good quarterback. So you know, it was just more of when things worked out, and I feel like it definitely worked out in the runs, the long run for sure.”

As Lloyd alluded to, while his opportunities in the passing game this past season at USC were somewhat limited, he certainly made the most of them, averaging a whopping 17.8 yards per catch on 13 receptions. For a wide receiver, 17.8 yards per catch is an impressive number and is almost unfathomable at running back.

Lloyd has good speed and has proven to be difficult to bring down, whether that be through his elusiveness in the open field, or contact balance, which contributed to him ranking 26th last season in average yards after contact while recording 7.1 yards per rush.

“He’s got serious speed,” said Gutekunst. “He’s very elusive; he’s got great balance, so he’s a little bit different than some of the backs that we have in our depth chart right now.”

When the running back position is able to impact the passing game out of the backfield, it can help open up the playbook for LaFleur and create matchup problems that can be exploited–not only for the running back but for his teammates as well.

When the Packers initially signed Josh Jacobs in free agency, LaFleur expressed a similar level of excitement when discussing Jacobs’ potential impact in the passing game. In five seasons with the Raiders, Jacobs was targeted 249 times, and as far as running backs go, he is fairly well-versed as a route runner.

The Packers believe that Lloyd has reliable hands, and we’ve all seen what he can do with the ball. However, with his limited opportunities in college, there will be a learning curve that comes with the route-running aspect of it, but the Packers infrastructure and Lloyd’s skill-set should put him in a position to maximize that potential.

“So again,” added Gutekunst, “now whether that can translate into running routes, that’s the harder part if they don’t do a lot of that. Then you’re kind of just betting on the athletic skill set and do they have the ability to do that stuff once they’re in our system and get coached by our guys.”

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire