Will the next generation of Rams receivers emerge this season?

The Rams are getting critical eyes from all sides fixed on their wide receiver situation. Questions about the lack of veteran presence have recently dominated talk about the Rams rebuilding efforts. The concern is certainly understandable; whenever you have that many unproven names at a skill position like that, you can't just assume success. There's no precedent. Personally, I'm taking a wait and see approach, and I offer you this post merely as conversation fodder. Comparing the great Isaac Bruce to another, younger player is a touchy thing among Rams fans, understandably so, and I don't offer this under any illusion that there's an easy connect the dots comparison between Bruce and Donnie Avery. That said, look at the start of Bruce's career:

In his rookie season, 1994, Bruce played 12 games, starting none, and caught 21 passes for 272 yards and 3 TDs. It was a trying 4-12 season with QBs Chris Miller, on the downward side of his career accelerated by concussions, and Chris Chandler starting under center for the Rams. The starting WRs were Flipper Anderson and Jessie Hester.

Things got better in 1995 as the Rams went to 7-9 in their first season in St. Louis, but that was thanks mostly to Bruce who put his stamp on the Rams #1 WR job with 119 receptions, 1781 yards, and 13 TDs. The other starting receivers on that team were Alexander Wright and Hester, who combined for just 53 receptions. The rest of the offense didn't fare much better than it had the previous season. RB Jerome Bettis missed time and managed just 183 carries for 637 yards and 3 TDs, the best rushing totals on the team by far. At QB, Chris Miller again missed time leaving Mark Rypien to get some starts. In other words, all the Rams had that year was Bruce.

The 2009 Rams are coming off another run of poor play, but are in a much better place than the 1996 Rams. Donnie Avery is coming off a rookie season in which he started 12 games, caught 53 passes for 674 yards and 3 TDs. Is he another Bruce? It doesn't matter. He's not in a position to have to carry the offense on his shoulders; Steven Jackson has that honor. It's unlikely he'll have 1700+ yards in his sophomore season, but he shouldn't need to. If you'll recall the Rams had a bona fide superstar WR last season in Torry Holt, and they still won just 2 games. The Rams group of players at WR is questionable until proven otherwise.

There are other factors that come into play here. Steven Jackson has to stay healthy, the new offensive line has to play to its high level of potential, and, most importantly, Marc Bulger can't become this decade's Chris Miller.

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