Snap! The exact moment the St. Louis Rams' 2011 season went way off the rails, captured in one sort of gross photograph.
Don Banks at SI.com had a look at a few players whose healthy return in 2012 could boost the fortunes of their particular teams. Included on that list was none other than St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola, who was lost in Week 1 to a dislocated elbow that led to a torn triceps as he tried to return to the field. Few people should be happier about the poor man's Wes Welker returning to action than quarterback Sam Bradford.
Here's some of what Banks had to say:
Without his security-blanket receiver to look for whenever he was in trouble, St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford simply didn't look like the same passer, and the Rams' already thin receiving corps slid into full-blown mediocrity.
St. Louis didn't come remotely close to replacing Amendola's 85 catches from the slot in 2010, and with the Rams' pass protection issues, those chains-moving, quick-hitting connections between he and Bradford were glaringly missed.
This gets back to something in that "Is Sam Bradford a bad quarterback" piece, based on the work of another analyst, that so enraged fans.
Last season, Bradford was near the top of the list of QBs who were sacked because they held onto the ball for too long, according to the numbers from Football Outsiders. A few things explain that. For one, McDaniels' offense put a heavy onus on receivers doing more work after the snap, something that the offensive line was poorly equipped to handle. The Rams receivers, with a noted lack of speed and little ability to separate, compounded matters.
Pat Shurmur's offensive system compensated for an inexperienced pair of tackles and a lack of receiving options by utilizing Amendola and the running backs on underneath routes for quick, but short passes. Though it wasn't much fun to watch, it was fairly effective, at least until the Rams got into the red zone were it just plain didn't work.
That was enough to earn Bradford the Rookie of the Year award. It also, seeing the team's limitations at the receiver position, is a pretty glaring indictment of the Devaney/Spagnuolo administration for not doing more to fix the receiver position in 2011. A full offseason and a healthier workplace might have made Lance Kendricks more of a contributor in that regard last season, stressing the field, as they said, by creating more mismatches.
This year, the new junta at Rams Park did more to address the receiver position, despite the lack of blue chip options to do so. The approach this time around was diversification. They brought in a well-rounded big man in Brian Quick, who can also get down the field with a deceptive long stride. Chris Givens is pegged as the speed guy they lacked since Donnie Avery didn't pan out, and went to IR in the preseason of Bradford's rookie year. If Steve Smith is healthy and rounds back into form, he provides a solid option as a possession guy.
And then, of course, there's Danny Amendola, whose return to the field should help not only with quicker passes from Bradford, but pulling coverage from some of the other targets.