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How does a healthy Danario Alexander fit in the St. Louis Rams offense for 2011?

Danario Alexander can give the St. Louis Rams a deep dimension to their offense.
Danario Alexander can give the St. Louis Rams a deep dimension to their offense.

By now you've heard the reports that St. Louis Rams sophomore wide receiver Danario Alexander is healthy. The Mizzou product joined his teammates at their informal, lockout practices at Lindenwood University in St. Charles yesterday. A healthy Alexander would be a wonderful thing for the Rams, giving them a wide receiver that can stretch the field. 

We didn't really see much beyond a few flashes of brilliance and a couple moments of frustration from Alexander last year. The prospect of a healthy DX got me thinking about what role he might play for the Rams this year and how he fits into the offense with the other receivers around him. Let's look at a couple videos and expound after the jump.

The first video is a highlight reel of DX from Missouri's continued tradition of Bowl disappointments, the 2009 Texas Bowl loss to Navy in this case. (Don't get me started on Mizzou's innate ability to cough up Bowl games).

Notice how long his legs are? And how long his stride is? Long legs and a long stride from a 6'5" receiver are to be expected. His most memorable plays with the Rams were deep balls. There's a reason for that: he gets downfield with those long legs and is capable of making catches on those balls. You see a few plays in this video, and the best plays he makes come when he has a chance to get up to speed. A couple plays he catches the ball behind or at the line, in space with room to hit his stride. You also see a couple go routes featuring him streaking down the field. You'll recall those with the Rams. In both cases, DX builds his speed and uses his physicality to break tackles. 

What you don't see from DX is that instant burst. It takes him more than a few steps to get up to speed, the struggles of a long strider. That makes him susceptible when catching the ball while stopped with defenders around him. You don't see him dealing with press coverage much in these videos. A good jam at the line can really throw off his timing by costing him an extra step to hit his stride.  

DX reminds me of Malcom Floyd from the Chargers (and a former Wyoming Cowboy). The trick is to feed him the ball down the field, which is what the Rams tried to do on occasion last year. Or, get it to him in the slot without a crowd around and let him run with it. 

For all the nonsense that is the Randy Moss talk, the underlying point is that the Rams need a threat deep. But Moss has long since lost his speed. If healthy, Alexander can provide a deep threat. In fact, the different arrangements the Rams can use with DX make for some intriguing possibilities. 

Imagine DX paired with Donnie Avery on the other side. On the field with those two is Austin Pettis, a solid route runner who can catch the ball short and in traffic. Maybe you have a 4-WR set with Danny Amendola. Put Steven Jackson into the mix, and that's five moving parts a defense will have to account for. It also sets up for a defensive coordinator's conundrum: blitz Sam Bradford and he can burn you with a quick pass behind the rushers; drop seven into coverage and give Bradford time to pick you apart with his accuracy. 

Ok, one more video...this is DX's ugly drop against Seattle. 

From the start, there's not much to fault Alexander for on this play. He gets into his route and gets up to speed pretty quickly. Two DBs are closing in on them, but he has them beat. All he has to do is catch the ball...and he doesn't. It looks like he makes a very slight adjustment to a pretty well thrown ball, but you see his focus on the ball disappear for split second. It looks in slow motion like he quickly checks on the defender behind him and loses the ball in that microsecond. 

It's a damn shame. Things might have turned out differently that week if he makes the catch, which looked like a free touchdown once he had the ball in his hands. 

Such is life with the deep ball. Hopefully, a healthy, wiser Alexander makes that catch this year. If he can be that downfield weapon with a reasonable consistency, the Rams can have a dangerous offense.