After the departure of Joe Daniher, Hurley was earmarked to play up forward alongside ex-Suns forward Peter Wright, before he was hospitalised last month.
The 30-year-old did make an appearance on the sidelines during Essendon’s scratch match against Carlton, but looked a shadow of himself after losing a significant amount of weight while being bedridden for weeks.
With the veteran still on crutches and the club refusing to place a time-frame on his return, there is a chance that Hurley could be sidelined for the best part of the year.
Hurley’s injury means veteran Cale Hooker will be shifted up forward, leaving Essendon with an extremely inexperienced back six.
“They’re under pressure at both ends of the ground,” Lloyd told Wide World of Sports.
“You’ve got Peter Wright and Hooker trying to play forward when it’s not ideal for them to be the number ones (and) you’ve got James Stewart learning a new craft as a key defender.”
2021 looms as a make-or-break year for Wright, who fell out of favour at the Gold Coast after being drafted eighth overall in 2014, and Lloyd urged the 24-year-old to get more aggressive.
“That’s where the pressure sits, because he hasn’t been quite competitive enough at AFL level,” he said.
“He’s got to get a bit more aggressive to be that replacement for Daniher in that forward line.
“He needs to compete and bring the ball to ground for the likes of Devon Smith, McDonald-Tipungwuti and those types of players.”
The writing was on the wall for Essendon’s 2021 prospects once Daniher, Adam Saad and Orazio Fantasia departed during the trade period.
While all the recruitment of Giants young gun Jye Caldwell grabbed the headlines, Lloyd backed an unheralded late transaction to provide the goods for Essendon.
“I don’t think the ins fully replaced the outs to be honest. All the outs are match-winners, and we’ve seen that at the AFL level,” he said.
“Nick Hind could be the big bonus of all of (the recruits). We’ve seen him as a forward at St Kilda, but he’s playing in the half-back flank for the Bombers and he’s like a Saad replacement with his ping off half-back.”
With skipper Dyson Heppell retreating to a halfback role in 2021, the pressure is on the likes of Caldwell and Kyle Langford to bring the grunt to Essendon’s undersized midfield.
Andrew McGrath, Dylan Shiel and Zach Merrett all possess the quality to be A-grade midfielders on their day, but Lloyd has one major concern about the Dons’ engine room.
“They’ve got a lot of talent in there with Shiel, Merrett and McGrath, but they’re not that big, so I think they could get monstered at times by bigger midfielders,” he said.
“Kyle Langford and Darcy Parish, the new wave of midfielders at Essendon, become really important.”