Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Rams' Receiver Corp 2011

The problem

In 2009, the Rams finished dead-last in the league in offense, scoring a total of 175 points, only 10.9 points per game. In 2010, the offense was a full touchdown per-game better, scoring just over 18 points per game (289 points). Of course, this was largely due to our change at the QB position. Marc Bulger threw for a total 1,469 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2009. Sam Bradford threw for 3,513 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2010.

With that said, there are still plenty of problems. By no means can this unit be viewed as a potential Super Bowl winner. Several All-Pro upgrades will have to occur before we can even begin to have that conversation. Although the two guard positions continue to be a position of critical weakness, the weakest link—by far—lies in precisely the point where it will hurt a young quarterback most: The Receiver corp.

The Rams receiver corp is commonly regarded as the weakest in the league. Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with a new franchise QB, and a fan base that recently enjoyed one of the greatest receiver corps in league history.

So the question is this: What must be done to build the Ram receiver corp into one of the finest in the league?

The Disaster of 2010

Before 2010, it was hoped that former 2nd round pick Donnie Avery would blossom. Certainly, with Sam throwing the football, we felt Avery would get an even break. It all went up in smoke during the 3rd preseason game in New England, where Donnie suffered a season-ending knee injury. To help fill the void, the Ram brought Mark Clayton. As you know, he didn’t last long. Soon we were calling in guys from the street. No slam on Denario Alexander, as I think he may have a bright future with us, but he was certainly doing something else for a living before the Rams dropped a dime in the payphone and called him. For some reason, 4th round pick Mardy Gilyard was never able to crack the starting lineup. This was a major disappointment to us all.

The one and only guy who was in the lineup constantly making plays was Danny Amendola, our own personal Wes Welker. Like Wes, he is a short-yardage possession receiver. While he has great speed, he does not have the big body, long arms, and hops to go deep down field and beat a double team in a jump-ball situation.

The Fantasy

What if, Donnie Avery, Mark Clayton and Denario Alexander all come back strong next season? What if Gilyard finds his confidence and proves himself worthy in 2011? What if we combine these four receivers with a new deadly-threat receiver, such as A.J. Green? With a chain mover like Amendola, a burner like Avery, a big body like Alexander, sure hands like Clayton and RAC like Gilyard’s, a young man like A.J. Green could find himself lost in the shuffle… which is the very best place you can possibly be if you are a young receiver. It couldn’t better, really. Many a receiver has said that he loves it when the defense forgets about him and/or lose track of him.

In this Panglossian scenario, we would have one of the best receiver corps in the league, and the best the Rams have had since the early moments of the Greatest Show on Turf. I am not saying we would score 500 points in 2011, but we might score 400.

The Reality

The reality is that we have two receivers coming off major knee reconstruction surgery: Avery and Clayton. We have another in Alexander who has had several surgeries. Avery and Alexander have demonstrated a propensity for dropping deep passes. Mardy Gilyard seems to have the athletic talent, but not the confidence to make it on this level. We all expect Amendola to be in the lineup and continue moving the chains.

In this scenario, it is likely that a new deadly-threat receiver (like A.J. Green) would find himself in double coverage at all times. While this would help Avery, Clayton and especially Amendola, it wouldn’t do our new guy much good.

It is possible that Sam Bradford could experience much greater success in 2011 with this receiver corp. We could prosper and perhaps even win 10 games with this corp, but I would doubt our status as conteders. While our Receiver Corp would be better than average at this point, it would not be exceptional.

Could we score 400 points with a unit like this? I doubt it. Back off to 350 points.

The most fail-safe plan

To ensure greater success in 2011… if there is a 2011… we need to acquire two serious receiver prospects via draft and free agency. As I mentioned, I would like one of them to be A.J. Green.

The problem with drafting A.J. Green

There is much speculation about A.J. Green being selected #1 overall to the Panthers. Is this bullshit? We know WRs very rarely go #1 overall.

I suspected that the early announcement that the Panthers would select Andrew Luck was pure bullshit. I find it difficult to believe they would give up on Clausen so quickly; although you know I am not a fan of Clausen. I smelled a rat immediately, and I wondered if the Panthers were posturing for a block buster trade with the 49ers. The question became moot when Andrew did the right thing and stayed in school. Smart kid!

Are the Panthers trying to stick a gun in the ribs of the WR poor franchises to see what they can get in trade? Maybe, maybe not. Presumably, they are sticking with Clausen this year. If so, is it not logical to arm him with the most dangerous receiver you can possibly find? Suppose you had an investment in a borderline kid who might make it and might not. Would you not make a move to secure that investment? Even if Clausen fails, A.J. is still there for your next QB.

Consider a Trade

I know the Rams are a small-market team. I know we have had three consecutive expensive high-first round guys in a row. I know we may encounter salary cap problems if the cap returns. Nevertheless, I think it is mandatory that we explore the possibility of moving up in the draft, perhaps even as high as the absolute #1 spot. I think we have to be ready to go up there one more time.