All aboard the Kenny Britt hype train. It's about to leave the station, and you don't want to get left behind with nothing but thousands of told-you-sos. Ok, maybe we're being a little premature. I'm just having a hard time wading through all the media hype from the St. Louis Rams OTAs.
Britt burned the Rams starting corners, Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins, last week in OTAs. You can see the video of that right here on TST. It looked like a veteran wide receiver running routes against a couple of young corners coming off up and down seasons in OTAs ... without pads ... without tackling ... and without keeping score.
Britt's strong practice also provoked a scuffle, which was immediately lauded as a testament to just how focused and intense this year's team is. Spring scuffles have been a regular feature of Jeff Fisher's OTAs since coming to St. Louis. But, hey, every little bit of hope is something for Rams fans.
The team's contractually obligated professional hype man was all over it.
@ramsffaan WR Kenny Britt was hard to handle. Overall the Rams looked very good today as a Team.— Tony Softli (@SoftliSTL) June 5, 2014
If it all sounds vaguely familiar, that's because it is. This was pretty much the same version of the Kenny Britt story going into the 2013 season, his last year with the Titans.
"I think you guys saw a little bit today. He's explosive, he looks great and is in great shape. We expect him to continue progressing and be that kind of special player."
And here's Britt on Britt in the same piece:
"I'd like to prove that I can be the receiver that I was two years ago and am better than the receiver I was two years ago," Britt said. "I want to be better than that because I've focused more on football than I have ever in my life in the last two months, and I'm excited to see what I can do this year."
The piece notes Britt's offseason workout program last year; he focused on staying in shape and getting ready for the season, how novel.
Fast forward to 2014, in St. Louis. Here's Britt's new quarterback, Sam Bradford, on Britt from today's hard hitting piece that asked the tough questions at the Post-Dispatch:
"He's looked really good in his time here. I think just watching him and the energy that he comes onto the field with every day has been great. Not only for the offense, but for that wide receiving corps in general. I just feel like he brings kind of a presence and an energy that maybe hasn't been there in the past."
Hmm, seems like I've heard that before.
And what's 2014 Kenny Britt have to say?
"My mind's free," Britt said. "I'm relaxed right now. I'm taking this year as a rookie year - just like I'm coming into the league. That's my mindset right now. Starting from scratch."
So how did all that focus translate for Britt in 2013? He started the first three games of the season before finding his way to a supplementary role. In 305 snaps, he was targeted 33 times, caught 11 passes and dropped seven. His 39 percent drop rate was the worst among any receiver with at least 11 targets and the worst of his career.
His publicized off-field incidents are one thing, but injuries have been a much bigger hindrance to Britt's professional career. He tore his right ACL and MCL in 2011, and hasn't been the same receiver since.
But he looks healthy at least in OTAs this year, and that's something right? Yes, that is something. It's also something that occurred last year. Here's the Nashville Tennessean from May 2013 speculating on a potential breakout year for Britt, based on a strong showing at OTAs (recapped via RotoWorld):
The Nashville Tennessean suggests Kenny Britt's trouble-free offseason could be a "launching pad" for Britt's breakout year.
Beat reporter Jim Wyatt writes that Britt "by all accounts" got serious this offseason, and "impressed coaches and teammates" by reporting to spring workouts in prime physical condition. Britt is in a contract season and can still salvage his All-Pro talent going on age 25. While Tennessee's QB situation is an obvious concern, Britt offers mammoth upside for a likely mid-round fantasy pick.
Fans and fantasy types held out some hope for Britt last year because 2013 also happened to be a contract year. His 11 catches translated to 96 total yards and no touchdowns, except for all the ones he scored in the spring.
You can be forgiven if you're now confused about what year it is. It's 2014, and this is at least the second year in a row that Kenny Britt is more focused on football than he ever has been in his life.
Hope springs eternal at OTAs, but it's important to keep some perspective.