The St. Louis Rams have problem. For the second year in a row, quarterback Sam Bradford has lost his leading wide receiver, his trusted ally, security blanket. Hopefully, Danny Amendola does not have a broken collarbone and can get back on the field soon. Either way, the Rams have to figure out to fill the void in their offense.
Replacing Amendola with a single receiver, a plug-and-play option, is not realistic, so put that aside right now. You should probably leave your armchair general manager hat in the closet too, forgetting about all the ridiculous trade scenarios floating around in 140-character bits.
Amendola used to lineup almost exclusively in the slot, but offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is changing that. Since the first week of the season, since the preseason, No. 16 has lined up on the outside as well. Set aside the simple slot receiver designation, the most important thing for the Rams will be developing a reliable target on short and intermediate routes.
Bradford and the offense need those options to keep the offense moving via the quick passes, which also helps the injury-riddled offensive line. He has a few options for that:
Austin Pettis: We got a taste of this last week, when Pettis caught a pair of crucial third-and-long passes to keep the offense moving in a win against the Seahawks. His size gives him an advantage in matchups, though he lacks the quick-step explosiveness of Amendola.
Brian Quick: A rookie mistake on Bradford's interception on Thursday night was a reminder of why Quick hasn't been suiting up until recently. He clearly needs to work still, and some extra snaps while Amendola is out could benefit his development.
Steve Smith: Benched the last two games, Amendola's absence most likely means Smith is heading back to the active roster next Sunday. He has the experience, though he obviously lost a step from his 2009 highs following microfracture surgery. If he can at least run solid routes, his veteran know-how could help the Rams offense.
Brandon Gibson: Gibson's role has increased dramatically this season, and except for one very notable drop against the Bears, he's having a good start to the season. His value has been on the outside, and I suspect he'll stay there. Bradford will be looking his direction way more without Danny in the fold. Gibson has a chance to really breakout this year.
Lance Kendricks: Schottenheimer loved using Dustin Keller in his old OC gig, and the Rams second-year tight end is seeing his fair share of snaps. He's mostly been blocking over the last two weeks. As a receiver, he's the most frustrating player on the Rams, leading the teams in drops. He should be the guy picking up most of Danny's targets over the middle. Can he do it?