ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 13: Mardy Gilyard #81 of the St. Louis Rams looks for room to run on a punt return against the Indianapolis Colts during the NFL preseason game at Edward Jones Dome on August 13, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Rams defeated the Colts 33-10. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Head coach Steve Spagnuolo, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and the other St. Louis Rams coaches have a long way to go before winnowing down 12 wide receiver candidates into 6, maybe 7, spots on the final 53-man roster. The first preseason game was a run-heavy light on playbook concepts. Receivers did not see many opportunities to separate themselves, except on special teams.
Special teams ability might very well be a deciding factor - it has been in the past - for making a determination about the final receiver spot on the roster. If that's the case, then Mardy Gilyard has a real chance to be with the Rams when the season opens on September 11.
Rams special teams coach Tom McMahon spoke highly of Gilyard to the press after yesterday's practice. Gilyard caught 2 passes with the offense and handled punt return duties exclusively, a good sign that the Rams are auditioning him for that role. McMahon also said that Gilyard will likely work as a gunner on punts. Gunners are the speedy, physical players who race down the sides to tackle returners.
Right now the wide receiver race looks something like this: Danny Amendola (the safest pick of them all), Brandon Gibson, Mike Sims-Walker, Austin Pettis, and Greg Salas for the first five. (I put Salas and Pettis in the mix because the new offensive coordinator helped draft those players because of their versatility to play slot or on the outside). The sixth spot is a toss up between Donnie Avery, Danario Alexander, Mardy Gilyard, Dominique Curry. With better depth at tight end and running back this year, i.e. more offensive weapons, special teams ability could very well be the deciding factor for the final receiver spot.