MarShawn Lloyd Film Study: Young RB Brings Playmaking Ability to the Packers

The Green Bay Packers' backfield looks completely different from a year ago. It hurt losing Aaron Jones this offseason, but the Packers front office did more than enough to staunch the wound from the beloved veteran's departure.

Josh Jacobs was a major free agent acquisition, and MarShawn Lloyd was one of the first tailbacks off the board in the third round of the NFL Draft. The Packers managed to get younger and more dynamic at the position. The exciting combination of Jacobs and Lloyd is also underlined by the return of A.J. Dillon, who should be a steady presence in the room.

At age 23, Lloyd is the future of the position, and looking over his college film, it is already easy to see what he could contribute immediately to the Packers in his rookie season. In his one season at USC, Lloyd rushed for 820 yards and nine touchdowns on 116 carries. He also recorded 232 receiving yards on 13 receptions. After only playing a rotational role at South Carolina for two seasons, it was a breakout year for Lloyd.

For this piece, I went through 11 games from Lloyd's 2023 USC season (Arizona St, Cal, UCLA, San Jose St, Utah, Stanford, Nevada, Notre Dame, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon) and four games from his 2022 season with South Carolina (Texas A&M, Charlotte, Kentucky, Arkansas). Here are my observations about Lloyd's game and how he will fit with the Packers.

Traits to Love and What MarShawn Lloyd Brings to the Packers

1) Ability to Change Gears -- The first thing that immediately jumps out about Lloyd is his impressive acceleration. This allows him to turn the corner and change gears once he sees an opening.

For example, in this first clip from the Nevada game, Lloyd follows the pulling linemen on the counter run, but as the defensive end collapses down and the inside linebacker closes the hole, Lloyd accelerates outside the tackle box and separates from the defense once he gets out in space.

Lloyd does a great job out-leveraging the safety to score the touchdown. His burst is evident in this play, and it's what makes him a dangerous offensive weapon out in space.

This next play comes from Lloyd's 2022 season at South Carolina. Midway through the fourth quarter against Kentucky, Lloyd breaks off a big 35-yard run to flip the field for the Gamecocks' offense. What's impressive about this play is Lloyd's ability to quickly gather himself after bouncing off a tackle and then accelerate through the hole to turn the play into a big gain.

Lloyd has a knack for knowing when to turn on the jets and separate from the defense. In this next example from his game against Stanford, Lloyd is patient at the line of scrimmage, but then once he sees his opening, he bursts through the line. And like the previous play, Lloyd slips a tackle near the line of scrimmage before accelerating downfield.

It's a great touchdown run by Lloyd and an electric play for the offense. He does a great job turning the corner, but he also outruns the safety to turn the run into a big play.

Lloyd has the ability to break a big run at any moment, and that's why some believed he was the top running back in the NFL Draft. On this play from the California game, it's tied late in the fourth quarter and the Trojans are looking to put together a go-ahead scoring drive. They call an inside run on first down, but Lloyd sees a hole to his right open up, he quickly redirects, and he gains the edge to accelerate downfield for the 47-yard gain.

It's Lloyd's big-play ability that makes him such an exciting prospect. It's easy to say why he averaged over seven yards per carry at USC. He should make for a great change-of-pace back as a rookie for the Packers. 

2) Elusive Runner -- Lloyd's top-end speed isn't his only impressive quality, however. He is also an incredibly elusive runner. His jumpcut, in particular, is effective and allows him to quickly change direction on the field.

On this play from the Arizona game, Lloyd only gains seven yards, but his ability to jumpcut to avoid the outside linebacker who blitzes off the edge is what allows him to avoid being tackled behind the line of scrimmage.

Lloyd plants and redirects so quickly that it allows him to play with suddenness. This play also showcases his lateral explosiveness, which is a rare ability. He does a great job planting his foot after his cut and accelerating downfield to get the first down.

This next play from the Arizona is also very impressive. Again, this big play comes late in the game with the score tied. It demonstrates Lloyd's elusiveness in space, and once again, his big-play ability in a clutch moment of the game. As the right tackle pulls to kick out the linebacker, Lloyd shows good patience to allow the block to land and then accelerates through the hole, outrunning the first tackle attempt. However, what turns the play from a medium gain to a big play is Lloyd's impressive juke to make the defensive back miss the tackle.

Lloyd has a lot of plays like this in his film. It's great to see because he has a nice combination of breakaway speed and ability to make defenders miss in space. However, Lloyd also shows the awareness and agility to redirect and turn a broken play into a big gain.

On this play from the Colorado game, Lloyd follows his pullers to the left side of the line, but the hole collapses because the defensive end sheds his block and stonewalls the puller. Initially, Lloyd tries to bounce the run to the outside but a linebacker is there to make the tackle. Instead of continuing to press to the outside, Lloyd redirects and turns and runs the opposite direction to find real estate and score the touchdown.

This is one of the more impressive plays from Lloyd's film. It shows his ability to dodge defenders, but it also shows how he can turn a negative play into a positive gain.

3) Impressive Play Strength and Balance -- While Lloyd can run away from defenders or elude them in space, he does possess the strength and contact balance to run through tackles, as well, making him a very well-balanced tailback. He runs behind his pads and keeps his legs driving through contact.

This play from the San Jose State game is a great example of this. Lloyd breaks three tackles because he keeps his legs driving through the contact, showcasing his lower body strength and balance.

Lloyd is not an easy runner to bring down. His compact 5-foot-9, 220-pound build allows him to pack a punch and maintain a low center of gravity. On this next example from the Charlotte game from his last season at South Carolina, a safety screams downhill and meets Lloyd in the hole one-on-one, but Lloyd lowers his shoulder and keeps his legs driving, which allows him to collect his balance and run through the contact.

Lloyd is a strong tailback, but his balance also allows him to gather himself after contact and continue running by regaining his feet.

For example, this next clip also comes from Lloyd's final year at South Carolina. Lloyd slips out for a screen pass, and once he gets out into the open field he spins out of a tackle and dodges another Arkansas defender. What is great about the play is Lloyd's ability to maintain his momentum through contact.

Lloyd's strength also extends to his effective stiff arm. It's another tool in his bag of tricks to break tackles and get yards after contact. For example, on this play from the Colorado game, Lloyd is able to gain the first down because he stiff arms the linebacker out in space and then lowers his shoulder to run through contact.

This is great effort from Lloyd and a big reason why he is such a handful to bring down for defenders. When he doesn't outrun or juke defenders, he can bulldoze over them or punch them with a nasty stiff arm.

4) Patience and Vision -- In addition to all of the physical tools, Lloyd puts it all together and runs with very good patience and vision. He shows a great feel for pacing and when to allow holes to open before he accelerates out of the backfield.

This play from the Stanford game is a split-flow play, where the fullback goes to the offense's left, while the tailback crosses in front of the quarterback to the offense's right. Lloyd does a great job at the mesh point giving the quarterback time to read the backside defensive end before taking the ball in the exchange. Lloyd then waits for a hole to open up before getting downhill and bursting through the line of scrimmage. He does a tremendous job here reading the right guard and waiting for him to turn the defensive tackle before hitting the hole.

This is a rare gift for a young tailback coming out of college. He already shows the patience and vision of a veteran ball carrier. This next play from the California game is another great example of this. The Trojans are in the red zone and it's 3rd-and-short. They pull the left guard and H-back on a power run, but this time, instead of following his lead blockers, Lloyd sees a hole open up to his left on the backside of the play. He quickly plants his foot and accelerates through the line of scrimmage, taking advantage of the defense's over-pursuit of the play.

It's a quick, yet impressive, touchdown run by Lloyd, and it shows just how effective he can be in the backfield when he relies on his vision and burst to make plays.

This next play from the Utah game demonstrates how Lloyd's patience and vision allow him to make big plays on the field, especially when he utilizes his physical tools, as well, out in space. The offense pulls the right side of the line in a counter run to the left. Lloyd does a great job waiting for the guard to kick out the end and for the tackle to wrap to the linebacker. However, once he sees the linemee have a hat on the defenders, he bursts through the hole and breaks into the open field to score on the 45-yard play.

Lloyd can really put it all together as a runner. He's dynamic with the ball in his hands, but he also has the savvy to follow his blockers and allow things to open up on offense. His ability to also take advantage of cutback lanes makes him a dangerous playmaker anywhere on the field.

5) Weapon in the Passing Game -- One of the more underrated parts of Lloyd's game is his ability to make plays as a receiver out of the backfield. Impressively, he averaged over 17 yards per catch in 2023, and while he had limited opportunities in the passing game, he certainly made the most of them. In his collegiate career, Lloyd recorded 34 receptions, but it's the variety of routes he ran that makes him standout.

First, this play from the Colorado game demonstrates his ability to be a reliable checkdown option for quarterbacks. It's just before halftime and Lloyd catches the ball a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He does a great job immediately getting downhill and lowering his shoulder to push through contact and gain the first down.

It's important for offenses to have a tailback who can catch the ball on a checkdown and make a positive play. Lloyd is also a very effective pass catcher in the screen game. It allows him to use his ability as a runner out in space. For example, on this play from the San Jose State game Lloyd catches the ball in the flat on a quick screen. He is able to use his cutting ability and speed to gain the first down.

Lloyd can also run routes downfield, which is a unique ability for a tailback coming out of college. He demonstrated this in some of the one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl practices, but he also showed it in some games in limited opportunities. Against UCLA, Lloyd ran a wheel route down the sideline for a big gain. It's clear on this play that Lloyd's speed allows him to separate from defenders downfield. He also demonstrates strong hands as he catches the ball in full stride as the safety comes screaming downhill to deliver the hit.

On this next play from the Nevada game, Lloyd runs a seam route down the middle of the field. This is a unique play because Lloyd begins in the backfield and pretends for a second to pass protect before he accelerates downfield. Based on the quarterback's eyes it seems clear this was a shot play designed for Lloyd.

Lloyd shows great body adjustment to twist his torso and catch the ball while maintaining his stride. He also breaks a tackle for good measure. Overall, Lloyd can be used in a variety of ways in the passing game, which makes him a fun weapon in the Packers' offense. It will be exciting to see how Matt LaFluer utilizes him with Josh Jacobs on the field.

Areas of Improvement at the Next Level

1) Ball Security -- Well, this issue has been well-documented with Lloyd, but let's cover it, nonetheless. While Lloyd is a prospect that is easy to love, it's also important to cover the areas he needs to improve as he begins his career with the Packers. Lloyd definitely has an issue with fumbles. That's not good. He lost eight fumbles in his three seasons in college. The good news is that ball security can be easily corrected with coaching and practice. This is not a physical limitation or athletic deficiency. It comes down to technique and discipline.

For example, on this play from the UCLA game Lloyd bounces the run to the outside and loses the ball once the defensive back gets low to make the tackle. In an ideal world, the tailback would switch the ball to his outside arm, so it's away from the defender once he's out in space. However, ball carriers are often taught to get both arms on the ball if they are bracing for contact and don't have time to switch the ball. This is called four points of contact. As you can see, Lloyd doesn't switch the ball to his outside arm, nor does he use his free hand to offer extra security for the ball once the tackler approaches.

This is a very correctable mistake. Because Lloyd is so dynamic in space it might be unreasonable to expect him to switch the ball to his outside arm and also have the wherewithal to stiff arm or juke defenders. However, at the very least, he could get in the habit of using his free hand to secure the ball once he sees a tackler approaching. This can be used in an over-under position on the ball, or he could use a cross grip where his free hand grips the wrist that is holding the ball. This is a common form of ball carrying taught at the college level.

However, even with cleaning up some technique issues with ball carrying, there are some fumbles on film that are just baffling and seem to be more mental lapses than anything else. For example, this fumble in the Utah game is very puzzling. Lloyd catches the ball in the flat and turns upfield. However, without any defenders around, Lloyd drops the ball, and then the defense recovers for the turnover.

This happens a few times in his tape. It's bad enough to fumble when getting tackled, but it is very concerning when there are ball security issues without any defenders around. My best guess on this play is that Lloyd is eager to get upfield and make a play, and he fails to secure the ball high and tight against his chest before he starts to accelerate. Because he's carrying the ball low and loose it pops out of his hands. This will have to be cleaned up if he wants to see the field in the NFL.

2) Pass Protection -- Picking up blitzes and offering support in pass protection is another area that could be better with Lloyd. While it's not always bad, he could be more consistent with it. On this play from the UCLA game, Lloyd tries to help the left tackle on the inside against the defensive end. However, his positioning and footwork are poor, which causes him to be ineffective and give up the sack.

Lloyd needs to square his shoulders to the line of scrimmage and move his feet to prevent his body from turning. Otherwise, his pass protection is useless. This should be an easy play for him. He's there offering support against a defender who is already being blocked by an offensive lineman. However, he turns his body and gives up inside leverage.

On this next play from the Notre Dame game, Lloyd shows more eagerness to pick up the edge rusher. However, instead of establishing a strong base and sinking down in his stance, Lloyd lunges forward at the defender, which causes him to leave his feet and whiff on the block attempt.

To his credit, Lloyd quickly redirects after the missed block and finishes the play well by giving great effort. There is definitely potential here as a pass protector. However, he just needs to clean up his technique and play under more control.

3) Don't Always Look for the Big Play -- The final area Lloyd could improve is a minor issue, but it's still worth mentioning. While Lloyd is a big-play threat anytime he has the ball, sometimes he needs to settle for what's there instead of always pressing for a big run. At times, he's too eager to bounce a run, which can lead to a loss instead of a short gain.

For example, in this play against Colorado the offense calls an inside zone run, and while there's a small hole open in the middle of the line, Lloyd decides to bounce the run outside the tackle, which allows the defensive end to make the stop for a loss.

With the safety crashing down in the hole, this may have only been a three or four-yard gain, but it would have been better than a two-yard loss. Sometimes settling for a short or medium gain as a runner isn't the worst thing in the world.

This next play from Lloyd's time at South Carolina is another good example of this. Lloyd still gains a few yards on the play, but as you'll see, he dances too much at the line of scrimmage instead of lowering his shoulder and hitting the hole.

Granted, there's not a lot there for him once he gets the ball, but he needs to be a little more decisive in this situation and get downhill instead of redirecting and trying to bounce the run. Fortunately, he doesn't lose any yardage on this play. While it's good not to coach Lloyd out of what he does so well--making big plays--encouraging a little more discipline at the line of scrimmage would also help mitigate negative plays.

Conclusion

Lloyd is an exciting playmaker who may seem like a steal in the third round once we reflect back on this draft class in a few years. In today's NFL, offenses need at least two tailbacks to establish an effective running game, and the Packers now have that with Jacobs and Lloyd. They are both big-play threats and can be weapons in the passing game. While A.J. Dillon should also factor in the backfield as a reliable between-the-tackles runner and pass protector, Jacobs and Lloyd give Green Bay something different than what they've had at the position for some time. Both are excellent blends of power, speed, and agility. With the offseason additions, the Packers backfield could be the engine that runs their offense this season.

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Comments (18)

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Bitternotsour's picture

May 22, 2024 at 10:55 am

top player in high school, top player in college, and about to be a top player in the NFL. Welcome to Green Bay.

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LambeauPlain's picture

May 22, 2024 at 11:07 am

While Lloyd doesn't have the quickness of Jones, he is plenty quick. Where he is Jones-like is in his balance. And he brings another 30 lbs to the field which should keep him more available. ( Jones averaged 10-12 carries a game and if MN wants him to be their workhorse, it will be folly).

Lloyd seems to be ideally suited to be part of the 1-2 punch with Jacobs. He is also ready to run behind zone blocking the Packers use. Is a dark horse receiver. Matt and Steno must be having a lot of fun drawing up plays for Lloyd and maybe some Pony with both fast, quick, tackle breakers on the field.

The fumbles are an issue...Jones had them too. And it has a lot to do with both mens relentless, play to the whistle style. Jones did reduce his fumbles. He had one of the best, most tenured Packer coaches on the team coaching him up in Ben Sirmans (Packer RB coach since 2016). Lloyd will benefit from Ben too.

The pass blocking will also improve...it has been a skill he hasn't been called on to use much. Another Jones comparison. Jones was not very good pass blocking early in Green Bay as Williams had that role and was sublime. But Jones really improved to the point you had no concerns with him pass blocking the last few years. Lloyd will get there. Again...Coach Ben will make it happen.

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Oppy's picture

May 22, 2024 at 06:50 pm

Combine results show Lloyd's 40 time as being a full tenth of a second faster than Jones (4.46 vs 4.56), and Lloyd's 10 yard split as being only three hundredths of a second slower than Jones (1.56 vs. 1.53).

By the eye test, Lloyd actually looks to have greater acceleration than Jones to me, even if the combine results say he's negligibly slower.

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 22, 2024 at 12:20 pm

His footwork behind the LOS is the most impressive aspect of his game to me. Before the draft one guy said his jump cuts were "close to teleportation" and his explosion out of his cuts can leave defenders grabbing air. Another thing I liked about his game is when a play broke down in the passing game he looked to find open space while keeping himself in front of the QB. He wasn't a featured part of the passing game but that ability helped him to average a WR like 17.8 yards a game. I'm sure LaFleur saw that and imagined ways to get him open field chances and not just dumpoffs.

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Oppy's picture

May 22, 2024 at 06:52 pm

I was just going to comment the same thing. His stutter step / feint and change of direction skills behind the LOS are something we haven't seen in a Packers RB in quite some time. It makes you do a double take on the film clips here- looks like it's not possible. lol.

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stockholder's picture

May 22, 2024 at 03:38 pm

Steal? I see NO Steal.
I see a 3rd rd pick used on a RB.
And the better RB is playing for the vikings.

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 22, 2024 at 05:21 pm

⬆️🤡⬆️

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cdoemel's picture

May 22, 2024 at 08:06 pm

So you’re against building a better roster? I’m 67. Personally, I’d like to win another Super Bowl before I die. However, my dad’s 89 plays two rounds of golf a week and is in two bowling leagues. So hopefully I’ll see two. 🤣

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stockholder's picture

May 23, 2024 at 07:12 am

Better roster? Jones was the one two punch.
I would not have taken a rb but a cb.

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DoubleJ's picture

May 23, 2024 at 07:48 am

I trust Gute's ability to evaluate talent far more than you. If he didn't think there was a CB worthy of an R3 pick then that makes sense. He did get some great value in R7 on CB with King.

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jannes bjornson's picture

May 23, 2024 at 10:51 am

The CB would need to be taken Rd Two. Philly snagged DeJean, but he would not move up for him and he moved Down, preserving draft capital and passing over Kool-Aid, Melton and Lassiter who all had flaws to grab the Fast, Pass Rush guy in Edge Cooper. Nubin could have been the selection, but they paid McKinney, a proven Veteran. Bullard is the flex safety for Hafley. He seems to have the smarts for the job. Williams vs Mustapha will be the wait and see game.

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GB@Germany's picture

May 23, 2024 at 03:37 am

Thumbs up, as always happy to read some different opinions.
From your point of view a 3rd round pick from Gute not being a complete bust should qualify a steal, shouldn't it?

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DoubleJ's picture

May 23, 2024 at 07:46 am

Jones missed almost half the season last year. Odds are at his age Jones cannot be counted on to play an entire season and missing half the season isn't out of the question. While he was on the field, Jones was quite good. However, Lloyd can be just as good and with his size he could be even better. We will have to see what happens during the season.

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stockholder's picture

May 23, 2024 at 11:17 am

Counted on or not.
He was the better back.
And he was the spark plug Love needed.
The Offense needed.
Mlf needed.
If Gute would have traded him, like Douglass.
There would have been No play-off run.

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DoubleJ's picture

May 23, 2024 at 01:05 pm

You also seem to forget that the Packers added Jacobs. Peak Jacobs is better than peak Jones. Jones is far away from peak now. It was obvious last season that he has lost a step. He was still able to break long runs but those became 30 yard gains instead of TDs. Not to mention I bet that Jones will be 30 this year. That is OLD for a RB and even older for one that has had as many injuries as Jones has had. I'd bet Jones misses 6 games or more this year. I'd also bet that Jacobs is the better RB this year compared to Jones. I know it is hard when your favorite players are traded or released. However, you are better off getting rid of them a year too early than a year too late.

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jannes bjornson's picture

May 23, 2024 at 10:21 am

Not with a 1.3 M cap hit vs 7.0 M for Jones on a One -Year deal. No doubt, A.Jones showed up for the final push. The odds are not in his favor to finish a full season with the Shipwrecked Sailors from the prairie. I would have moved him after the Tampa Bay meltdown on the frozen tundra. Lloyd is going to have to prove he can hold onto the football, or he will ride the pines. Only the earth and sky last forever. A prove it year for Gutey.

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cdoemel's picture

May 22, 2024 at 08:04 pm

Fuck!!

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GeorgeRipley's picture

June 10, 2024 at 01:54 pm

You got me interested

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