If you wanted some good news to make your Thursday a little less bleak, look no further than the report that St. Louis Rams WR Donnie Avery can still run a 4.34 forty. Sure it's off his draft prospect time of sub-4.3, but it signals that Avery still has the speed that can make him a threat in the receiving game for the Rams.
Like we did with Danario Alexader yesterday, the news provides a nice opportunity to think about how Avery might fit into the Rams new offensive system. Let's go to the tape.
Obviously, Avery's greatest asset is his speed. He can get downfield in a hurry. Unlike Danario Alexander who is a deep threat because he needs a few steps to build up his speed, Avery gets up to speed almost instantly. Off the snap, after the catch or when he makes a cut from side-to-side, Avery can find his high gear almost instantly.
Look at his first catch in this video, about 15 seconds into it. Avery's running a deep route in the middle of the field, he slows a little to adjust to the ball, makes a catch and then shifts back into high gear to outrun the defensive back.
You can kind of see how he gets off the line quickly in this video, featuring his 43-yard catch to put the Rams in range for a winning field goal.
What you also see with Avery, is that he's not particularly difficult to take down if a defender can make contact, especially contact low.
Avery bulked up last year - to 200+ lbs which he admittedly wasn't comfortable with. The idea behind the added weight was increased durability and less prone to get knocked down low. Now, he's down to a more fitting 190ish lbs which should help.
On the field with DX, the Rams will have two legit deep threats, albeit with different strengths and weaknesses to their game. If both players can stay healthy, it will force defensive backs to spread out, giving each receiver more space to work with, where both can be very effective after the catch.
You can probably compare Avery to Eddie Royal, his fellow 2008 draftee with a very similar skill set (though I think Avery has a little better speed). Royal was the third leading receiver with the Broncos last year, catching 60 passes on 106 targets.
Does that mean we'll see Avery catching the deep ball for most of his receptions this year? It's hard to say since McDaniels is also planning to implement the two-TE system. Royal didn't catch a ton of balls down the field in Denver, averaging just 10.8 yards per reception.
With Avery and the other Rams receivers, tight ends included, what you've got more than anything is diversity, a wide array of options. Alexander and Avery can line up to run deep with Pettis, Salas or a tight end in the middle part of the field. (Pettis kind of fits the role Jabar Gaffney had with the Broncos under McDaniels). If everyone stays healthy, the ball will probably get spread around quite a bit between the bevy of receivers. Either way, a healthy Avery definitely gives the Rams the option to stretch the field.