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Who needs a number one receiver anyway?

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You absolutely must read this fan post from Carneros on the role of wide receivers in the St. Louis Rams offense. In it, he speaks to the concern many have discussed here and around the web of the Rams' lack of a prototypical "#1 wide receiver."

Taking a look back at the Andy Reid offensive systems in Philadelphia, where Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur made a name for himself, he points out the success of those teams without a number one receiver. Shurmur's installing a similar offensive system in St. Louis, and doing it without the kind of receiver that gets his name on the marquee. 

Only three times during that 2001-2009 period covered in the post, did the Eagles get a 1,000+ yard season from a receiver: T.O. in 2004, Kevin Curtis in 2007, and DeSean Jackson last year. Other than Owens, these guys don't fit the traditional definition of a #1 WR. The claim to fame for Curtis and Jackson is their ability to get yards after the catch, with Curtis more of a slot guy who can run routes well and Jackson with the speed to do just about whatever it is he wants to do after the catch. Jackson had an incredible 10 receptions for for 40 or more yards. If anything the success of players like Jackson should force everyone to redefine what a number one receiver really is. 

The Rams receivers offer some interesting similarities.

Donnie Avery might not feel the pain of being a square peg of a speedster fit into the round hole of a possession guy, something that came out of necessity in the last two years thanks to injuries and other offensive struggles with the Rams. Fourth round pick Mardy Gilyard brings a very nice array of after the catch skills with his strong legs, jukes and his burst. As Coach Conners said, "you can do a lot with a guy who can catch and run." 

Besides more dish on the Rams receivers, I thought it was worth taking a look at how the Eagles and their offenses fared in the years covered by Carneros. In the chart below, you've got the season, the Eagles record and their offensive ranking for total points and yards.

Season Record Points rank Yards rank
2001 11-5 9 17
2002 12-4 4 10
2003 12-4 11 18
2004 13-3 8 9
2005 6-10 18 19
2006 10-6 6 2
2007 8-8 17 6
2008 9-6 6 9
2009 11-5 5 11

 

Lots of factors are at play here, like injuries and defensive play, but the key takeaway is that these offenses score points.  The biggest anomaly, 2005, the Eagles were without McNabb in all but 9 games, and it was the worst season for their defense out of all those years by far. 

Go back one more season to the year 2000. That was McNabb's second season in the league and his first as the Eagles full time starter. He led the Eagles to an 11-5 record that year, and led the team in rushing. The Rams aren't counting on Sam Bradford's legs to carry their offense. However, the passing game and what the Eagles later came to expect from Buckhalter and Westbrook is very similar to what the Rams are installing in this offensive system. 

Getting back to the issue of a traditional #1 receiver, given Bradford's style versus McNabb's, especially the added dimension of McNabb's ability to run with the ball, I'd still look for the Rams to add a wide receiver in an upcoming draft. That just wasn't a priority this year given the team's many other needs. Shurmur's experience without a #1 WR probably allowed them to put that off a year, or so I would think. 

The next question is when to start expecting results.