McDaniels explains Lloyd's shaky Sunday

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McDaniels explains Lloyd's shaky Sunday

Brandon Lloyd didn't have a normal Sunday. In fact, he was as quiet as he's been since the 2008 season when he was a spare part on the Chicago Bears.

The Patriots outside-the-numbers wideout had one catch for 6 yards. He was targeted on eight Tom Brady throws. Three of the incompletions could be classified as drops since they were on Lloyd's hands or body and not hauled in.

Earlier this year, Lloyd had a three-catch, 34-yard day against the Broncos. Last year, he had a a three-catch, 29-yard day when he was targeted 12 times for the Rams. In 2010, while with Denver, Lloyd had two catches on 11 targets for 31 yards. But you have to go back to December 2008 when Lloyd failed to catch the only pass he was thrown in a game between the Bears and Jaguars to find a less impactful day.

Asked about Lloyd failing to answer the bell, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels explained Lloyd's role was "having an opportunity to go down the field on some of those different play-action plays."

On the three missed connections with Tom Brady, Lloyd slid and took it off the chest on a deep in-cut; he also dove and had a ball slide out of his normally vise-like grip. Finally, Brady hit him in the throat with a bomb down the sideline with a possible game-ender that Lloyd bumbled away.

"A couple of those catches would have been great catches and the funny thing is that we always anticipate that he is gonna do it because he has so many times previously," said McDaniels. "I think he will going forward. I think it was a matter of one of those days where we were close on some of those deep throws, there were some missed opportunities there and I'm sure Brandon would like to make some of those plays."

Lloyd has not been a disappointment on the field. He's got 35 catches for 407 yards and a touchdown. You can quibble with the yards after catch numbers (not very many since Lloyd goes down faster than a metal balloon when he makes a catch in traffic). You can quibble with his yards per catch average (11.6, which is less than the Patriots slot receiver and one of their tight ends). But you can't argue he hasn't been an outside upgrade.

Practice, said McDaniels, is where the down-the-field progress must be made.

"We gotta work hard in practice," said McDaniels. "I think that's where the timing and chemistry (blossoms) and then those deep throws that obviously have a lower percentage chance of working. You really gotta work hard in practice as much as you can in those couple of days during practice each week to try and master some of those things to improve it as best we can."

The mercurial Lloyd hasn't been available much after games. Entreaties to speak after the Seattle loss and during the past week were met with icy, wordless stares.

McDaniels said the Patriots need to continue to be diverse in where they throw to loosen up room for Lloyd on the edges.

"I don't think that's been a normal thing for Brandon to go like that and have one catch on so many different targets but it's not just him we have some other things we can do better to help some of those plays and situations," said McDaniels. "We have to do a good job of making sure that everybody's targeted inside the numbers, outside the numbers, down the field and put as much stress as we can on the field."

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski have restructured the tight end’s contract for the coming season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

The reworked deal can bump Gronkowski’s salary for the 2017 season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million, according to Schefter. 

Gronkowski was limited by injury to just eight games last season. He had 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were career lows. 

The 28-year-old is entering his eighth NFL season since being selected by the Pats in the second round of the 2010 draft. He has played played in at least 15 regular-season games in four of his first seven season, though he’s twice played fewer than 10.