The St. Louis Rams added lots of exciting talent this off-season. You have the young and exciting West Virginia wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, the misused former Teeneesee Titan tight end Jared Cook, the former number 1 pick offensive tackle Jake Long, and the small but bruising running back Zac Stacy.
Lot's of talent was added, but what about the players who are still on the team? Everyone is so excited about the new additions that they're forgetting a promising player - former 2011 2nd round pick Lance Kendricks.
The Rams brought in Cook to be their receiving threat. It's also important to note that Kendricks hasn't been close to the magic number of 1,000 receiving yards (he only has 871 total yards in 2 seasons).
People think just because the Rams added Cook, the team will phase out Kendricks, and he will slowly disappear similar to how low rated players fade away when playing franchise (or connected careers) on Madden.
That's completely untrue. These two players can easily exist, and could even help Sam Bradford take the necessary steps to being a great quarterback.
Indy would line up Dallas Clark in slot and if you covered him w/ LB they would throw & if you covered w/ DB, they might run at you— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) May 14, 2013
NOBODY has ever been better at checking to effective running plays that take advantage of favorable matchups quite like P. Manning— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) May 14, 2013
Two pass catching TEs don't create the advantages that a pass catching TE and combo TE can.Need to have ability to check to run from 2 TE— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) May 14, 2013
Yes, Cook and Kendricks can easily co-exist. They can come out in different formations, two-TE sets. But I'm getting ahead of myself, so we will save this formation stuff for a later article (have to keep you on TST for a reason, besides my good looks).
Kendricks does the dirty work
Cook was brought in to be a weapon for Bradford. He might do some work as an in-line tight end, but the main guy for that job should be Kendricks.
After re-watching the passes Bradford threw to Kendricks, I was able to discover a couple of things. He's smart, he knows how to give the quarterback enough space from the defender, and how to position himself to make the pass easier on the QB. The next thing is he was used in multiple ways last season, obviously in-line and as a fullback, but he was also used as a slot receiver at times.
Here's a couple of quotes from earlier this season that fellow TST writer Eric Nagel wrote about Kendricks during last season.
An example of his blocking.
His block isn't the most dominating performance (from a visual perspective, at least to me), but it's clearly the best on the right side. It's also arguably the most important, because it allows Richardson to hit the hole at full speed, clearly his greatest strength, maximizing the run. It's fundamental, unsexy football. Make your blocks, catch passes. Kendricks has been doing both of these things well in recent weeks.
An example of the tough catches he makes, that you will forget by tomorrow.
This is a bang, bang play. Kendricks snags the ball, secures it, and then proceeds to get hit hard. This is by no means an easy catch, but he hauls it in anyway. These are the type of plays that drive the offense. Not every play has to be a home run, but when you have a tight end who can block, allowing the team to gain good yardage on the ground, then go out and snag a 17 yard completion, you have the makings of a dangerous offense. Kendricks is tall, strong and athletic. If he's a reliable option in your passing game, that creates mismatches. Mismatches are good.
Kendricks can be a good short yardage and redzone player
After watching the every target video on Cook, it became evident that the Titans didn't think about using Cook in the redzone. Things could change now that he's in St. Louis.
But right off the bat, the "forgotten player" is one of the best options in short yardage situations.
Here's a clip on how he can be used in short yardage situations and in the red zone.
On this play Kendricks is playing in-line. He runs a simple curl, but as soon as he turns for the ball, he sees his quarterback in trouble. So he rolls with him, and catches the ball for a touchdown.
That was a simple play, but it's the type of play the Rams need with all their explosive new additions.
Comparing his playing style
That's a difficult question to answer, because it's hard to place Kendricks inside a box. Just ask Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
"Most people want to put tight ends into one of two boxes," Schottenheimer said. "They're either a pass catcher or they're a blocking tight end. Lance is, what I would say, a guy that can do both really, really well. So, he might not ever get mentioned with the guys that are going to catch 90 balls a year, but I mean, is that really being a tight end? This guy's a great football player. He blocks at the point of attack better than probably anybody in the league. For a guy that weighs 245 pounds, that's really impressive."
It's hard not to agree with him after watching Kendricks play last season. To me, he plays closer to Delanie Walker. In my honest opinion, he's one of the most underrated players in league.
Kendricks is in the mold of Walker, but will end up a better receiver. It's hard to picture Kendricks making a big impact this year. He probably won't make 11 defensive starters miss like Tavon Austin will.
Kendricks might not be an exciting player, but if you need a player to help block as a tight end or a full back, or make those tough clutch catches, then Kendricks is the man.