Who will step up for the Rams in the aerial attack still remains to be seen, but the loss of their most sure-handed receiver can’t equate to a hesitancy to air it out. Last week, the Rams beat the Cardinals in spectacular fashion, and came out wowing in their first drive, with a five play, 69 yard, touchdown-scoring drive. The Rams, however, don’t need ‘the long ball’ necessarily to find success in the air in this week’s matchup. While the Miami secondary has given up 100-yard receiving games to three receivers through it’s first five games, it doesn’t necessarily take a ‘true number one’ to accomplish the feat.
Even more so, tight ends have proven successful against the Dolphins defense in it’s first five match-ups, which could mean a big day for second year TE Lance Kendricks. Lance has shown flashes in his first two seasons of play, and at times appears to have a rapport with Sam Bradford that you’d think would get him more looks. He’s proven to be effective in run blocking, possesses the ability to get open on pass plays, but is not always sure-handed. Kendricks’ numbers are not that of a Gronk or Graham. They’re not close. Through five games in 2012, he’s amassed 10 catches for a whopping 88 yards. Here’s why I think he can match that - at least in yardage - in Week 6 alone.
Week 1 [@ Houston] - Andre Johnson, who has gotten off to a relatively slow start to his season, came out in mid-season form in the season-opener, much to the chagrin of the Dolphins D. Being one of the aforementioned 100-yard, TD dancing ‘number ones,’ Johnson tallied 119 yards on the day. The Rams don’t have an Andre Johnson, with or without Danny Amendola. But Owen Daniels, who is no slouch at the tight end position, was the second leading receiver for the Texans that day. Owens caught the ball only four times, but was one yard shy of Lance’s season total in yardage , and averaged 21.8 yards per catch.
Week 2 [Oakland] - To be honest, the Raiders don’t have the most spectacular receiving corps in the NFL, but they do have [and did have] Darius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore. Well, neither of them lead the Raiders in receiving yardage that week. Neither of them were second in receiving yardage that week. Two yards shy of Lance’s season total, Brandon Myers finished the game with 86 yards, at a healthy 14.3 yards per. Screen plays might prove to be a viable option as well, so listen up Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson. Mike Goodson hauled in three catches in Week 2…83 yards and TD later, he was averaging 27.7 yards per. That’ll put you in FG position pretty quickly. Warm up that leg, Greg!
Week 3 [New York Jets] - This week, in all honesty, showed very little from a the tight end position, but there are still takeaways. First, and foremost, Mark Sanchez threw [on the road] for 306 yards that day, which is BY FAR, his season’s best performance in terms of yardage. The Jets, in case you were wondering, rank only two spots above the Rams through five weeks of regular season play in passing yardage per game. Another one of the ‘number ones’ mentioned above is 5’11" Plaxico-less, Santonio Holmes. 147 yards on the day. Second leading receiver, you ask? Jeremy Kerley. He didn’t spend much time on the field, but when he did, it caused serious damaged…to the tune of two catches for 73 yards and a TD. You listening Chris Givens? Just so you know, Dustin Keller was inactive during this game, or I’m guessing he would’ve been good for 85 yards…just based on the trend of the previous two TE’s performances.
Week 4 [@ Arizona] - I’ll change gears here for a second on this matchup. These two teams threw the ball whenever - and wherever - they wanted. Rookie Ryan Tannehill threw for 431 yards in an away game to an undefeated Cardinals team…in Arizona. In doing so, he put the name Brian Hartline on the map. Hartline caught twelve balls that day, and accounted for 253 yards of total offense. Davone Bess also eclipsed the century mark, racking up 123 yards on seven catches.
On the opposite side of the coin, the Dolphins did a good job of limiting the success of one of - if not the - best WR’s in the NFL. Larry Fitzgerald had eight catches for 64 yards, and as usual found his way into the painted area at the end of the field. The Dolphins, however, didn’t fair so well in shutting down Andre Roberts. I said Andre Roberts. You know, the 24 year old from the Citadel. The one who had six catches for 118 yards and two TD celebrations. That guy…
Note to Brian Hartline: the Rams held Megatron, Brandon Marshall, and Larry Fitzgerald to 274 yards total in their collective match-ups. Wake up, Brian, there’s coffee to smell!
Week 5 [@ Cincy] - I’m going to get back on track with the TE success now. It is absolutely no secret that AJ Green is the offensive player on the Cincinnati Bengals. I am, however, willing to give credit where credit is due. The Dolphins, who probably hang their hat on this, limited AJ to 65 yards on the day. He did haul in 9 catches and TD, though, in what ultimately would end up another Miami win. Right behind him in catches/yardage? Not speedster Andrew Hawkins, and not rookie Mohamed Sanu. Nope…Jermaine Gresham. Five catches for 60 yards on the day. Those numbers certainly aren’t spectacular, but the man caught five balls. That’s half of what Lance has caught through 5 games.
For the Rams, it appears that match-ups for Lance Kendricks are opportunistic, to say the least. Based on the stat lines of the two leading receivers lining up opposite the Miami Dolphins over the past five weeks, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a hail mary in order to move the ball on the Dolphins. TE’s are finding space, tallying catches, and posting alarming averages on the Dolphins defense. Even in their wins, they allowed 234 passing yards to the Bengals [last week], and 373 yards to the Raiders in Week 2. The Dolphins are currently the best team in the NFL at stuffing the run. If history is any indicator, the Rams may not be in a ‘rush’ to oust them from that spot. Wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs are having success in the air on the Dolphins D. Someone is going to have a big day for the Rams. Opportunity knocks for Lance Kendricks, or any Rams player that looks to make the highlight reel.