There's a lot of pressure on the Rams this season to improve on their disappointing 3 win 2007. For the coaches, the stakes are obvious, but individual players will be playing for their reputations as well. For Drew Bennett, the stakes ratcheted way up as soon as the Rams severed ties with Mr. Ram, Isaac Bruce.
Bennett's first year in the Golden Horns was marred by injury and a woeful offense. When Bulger wasn't being sacked and could put the ball in the air, it was usually to trusty targets Holt and Bruce. So now, with Bruce gone Bennett becomes the Rams number two wide receiver, an important role that figures to keep Torry Holt from a constant double team.
The question is, can Bennett be the effective #2 the Rams need him to be? He's certainly getting paid like it, but last year left a bad taste and a dubious opinion of the pricey free agent among Rams fans. Let's look at his stats from Football Outsiders (link includes a review of DPAR and DVOA):
The stats confirm what we Rams fans knew to be true last season: Drew Bennett wasn't very good. However, there's some hope in his 2006 numbers. As you can see, per DPAR (measured in points) he was worth a little more than a touchdown versus an "average' WR, while his DVOA sat just below the per play value of an average WR. One thing to remember about the 2006 Titans: their offense wasn't very good. They started the season with Kerry Collins before handing the offense over to rookie QB Vince Young, not exactly known as a pocket passer. According to FO, their offense ranked 25th in the league as measured by DVOA; their passing offense was ranked 27th.
2005 was much worse for Bennett and the Titans, as the team struggled with QB issues with McNair breaking down during their 4-12 season. Bennett also missed 3 games that season, which makes his 58 catches and 738 yards slightly better than it looks, and he was at least still something of an asset to his team according to DPAR. In the seasons before 2005, you can see what made him a household name among football fans.
The thing to remember about Bennett is that he put in lots of time as a #1 WR and did well in the role too. It stands to reason then that he should serve well as a #2 in what could be a pretty well balanced offense with a feature running back like Steven Jackson, a legitimate threat over the middle in Randy McMichael and Torry Holt. It's also worth noting that Bennett's only 29, too, so age certainly hasn't become an excuse yet.
Whatever the numbers say this time next year about Drew Bennett, they'll at least represent a final verdict on him in the minds of Rams fans. Hopefully, he makes it a good one.