This preview will cover five players who can impact 2013s success both in a negative and positive way depending on their play. Certain players are excluded, for example there will be no rookies. This series will be about players that has at least one year of experience and can either take a step forward or backwards. The entire offseason is based on judging and labeling rookies that have yet to play a down. I will not continue, lets lay it to rest and focus on the other guys with camp so close. The players that at least have something to base their preview off of. Another player to be excluded will be Sam Bradford. He has received enough coverage and I think we all get the point.
To start the series off lets have a look at last years leading receiver, Chris Givens.
Every time Givens was targeted in 2012 (via RamsONDEMAND)
Givens finished last year with 42 rec, 698 yds, and 3 td's. He also rushed 3 times for 12 yds and had 539 KOR yds. Givens actually took one back vs the Jets but it was negated by a holding penalty. So lets start there.
Givens was a decent return man. He averaged an average return average (say that five times fast) of 23.4 ypr. On the one he took back against the Jets, Givens displayed great vision and anticipation (more on that later). But outside of that there wasn't much to get excited about. It was not his bread and butter. Now with Tavon Austin in the mix, Givens can focus less on returns and more on becoming a better overall receiver.
It seems Givens has already begun to make that his focal point. As we can all see here (clearly bulked up), the talk of Givens reporting to OTA's with added muscle is true. The purpose of this is " to be better prepared for the rigors of playing and playing a lot", according to Nick Wagner, official writer and blogger of the St. Louis Rams website.
And it appears to have been a good assumption on Givens' part, as his quarterback is on record saying "last year he primarily played the ‘Z’ for us, now he’s also being asked to play inside," Bradford explained. "He’s being asked to go backside and play ‘X’. He’s a really, really smart football player; he understands our offense and I think by moving him to different spots in our offense, he’ll be able to run more routes."
With great routes comes great responsibility. Last season Givens had three main routes that was key to his success. The go, bubble, and post. That's not to say those were his only routes ran, but that's where he made his biggest impact. Givens averaged 16.6 ypc and had 10 receptions of 20 yds or more.
The ball was thrown his way 80 times which is an extremely high amount for a player that did not get significant playing time until week 4, and also a suspension in week 10. So its like having 75 targets in 12 weeks, that equals 100 targets over the course a full 16 games.
But it also equals 52% completion. Now, that is not entirely his fault. With so many deep routes being ran it is expected. It is one of the harder passes to complete. But it is also a nice percentage when you do realize the lower completion percentage for deeper routes. On another note he was responsible for 8 drops on the year.
Eight may not seem like a lot but when you think about it as if he had the same amount of targets as a true number one (120-150 targets), well now he is flirting with 10-15 drops, far too many.
But while on the subject of his hands, I should clarify they are not bad at all. Here is a clip of him making a helluvae grab that most people would drop:
TD catch by Chris Givens St. Louis Rams vs Arizona Cardinals (via Go Rams)
This shows this is a very difficult catch. For starters the corner has near perfect coverage. The throw has to be only where the receiver can get it, in other words, PERFECT! And for those of you that don't know the perfect throw usually has to be perfect for a reason, making the catch the hard part.
This angle shows the concentration that Givens has on the reception. His eyes are glued to the ball even though the cornerback's hand is practically touching the ball. This usually is enough to throw the receivers attention off just enough to miss the ball.
The toughest part of this catch is maintaining control while diving. A very high percentage of diving catches end in a drop. To hit the ground at full speed while trying to reel in a catch is like going over the middle and taking a blow from the MLB or SS. Majority of the time the impact of the fall is enough to jar the ball loose.
You know how there are hard catches that players make look easy? Well this not one of them. This is a hard catch, and it looked every bit as difficult. He made this exact type of catch on multiple occasions. Here is one more example of a difficult deep grab:
Chris Givens Touchdown (via Anthony Bafaro)
This was good because he took two blows and still maintain focus and control. First the defender then the ground. The route was also ran perfectly with a beautiful double move.
Givens has displayed the ability to make some tough catches. But he just needs to be more consistent. I believe he will improve his route tree and have more routes that are just as beautiful as the double move post he ran above. He has been labeled as a speed demon/deep threat. But he has shown the ability to be much more.
Before becoming more consistent, he has to master his craft. That means understanding key points and landmarks in the routes. So far his dedication to bettering himself has been good with added muscle and a rumored "very strong" spring.
On the "Starting 22 and Players Ratings" article on the homepage, NoCap and I had our first disagreement:
He led in receiving yards last year as a rookie. Adding more routes this year he is going to be a very nice #2, and possibly a #1 even with the new additions.
Now I am not going to post the entire debate, but you are more than welcome to read it here. The point I was making was he has the potential to be really good. Like a 10k yard career receiver good. I have long said his talent best compares to Jeremy Maclin. But I believe he can produce like a Stevie Johnson. He has the potential to be a consistent 1000-1200 yard receiver.
His new objective should be to beat the hell out of his single coverage with no safety over the top (teams won't be able to focus on him with the new overall team speed) so much that any catch can go the distance.
Givens should be able to maintain a catch average above 15 yds. If he can do that I see him finishing this year with 900+ yards and 6-8 touchdowns. With his apparent good work ethic and natural talent. Givens looks to be taking a mega step in the right direction, and with more talent around him he will have no added pressure to over perform, allowing him to continue to grow at the pace he is most comfortable with. But make no mistake about it, Givens enters the season as the teams number one receiver and should receive about 100 targets. With an improved route tree as well as multiple positions to line up at, his catch percentage will rise. He just has to continue to cut back on the drops, and continue making the beautiful grabs.