The St. Louis Rams have several position battles brewing at training camp this year. No position battle is as eagerly watched as the log jam at wide receiver. It's a horse race, beyond the top two spots anyway. Through some three weeks of practice and a couple preseason games, no candidates have really emerged to nail down the four or five roster spots behind Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson. Where do things stand as of the preseason's halfway point ? Let's take a look.
Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola clearly earned the starting jobs, barring some dramatic development. Amendola is his reliable self, looking for an offense that can give him more room to work this year. Before camp, many thought Gibson was a long shot to make the team, but he separated himself from the pack on the first day of camp. During the lockout we all speculated about who might be the Rams' version of Brandon Lloyd in McDaniels' offense, and it looks like Brandon Gibson is it. As for the rest...
Mike Sims-Walker - The most accomplished of any receiver, the Rams signed him to an incentive-laden one-year contract. So far, the results have been mixed. He had a terrible game this week, getting a late break and bobbling a pass that led to an interception. That was followed by a fall on 3rd-and-12 with the ball coming his way. He did make one nice catch later in the game. MSW missed practice almost all week, so he gets a mulligan for his performance on Saturday.
Greg Salas - Playing in his first NFL game this week, Salas quickly bounced back from a dropped pass to catch three more. A quick guy with good hands and the toughness to play all over the field, I'll be interested to see what he does with more reps this week.
Austin Pettis - Starting with the ones in the first week of the preseason, he muffed some easy passes and looked jittery. This week, he was with the second and third teams, as well as working on special teams. His size and hands, reportedly his best asset per scouting reports, should make him a great red zone weapon for the Rams. You have to think they'll have some preference for keeping the two draft picks selected by the current administration.
Donnie Avery - In my opinion, he earned himself more reps with the first team next week. He looked great on the 19-yard TD pass from Feeley to start the second half, after a nice week in practice.
Danario Alexander - He played alright this week, but isn't doing much to stake his claim to a roster spot. Five knee surgeries, and already some missed time this summer, makes his NFL future cloudy. When healthy, he has the ablity to work deep and beat most corners with his size and style of play.
Mardy Gilyard - The Rams really want to see what he can do as a returner, where his shiftiness could be a real asset. So far, he's been fine. He really stands out as a gunner on the kicking teams, and his special teams play could very well earn him a roster spot.
Dominique Curry, Jared Jenkins, Greg Matthews and Joe West are also vying for a spot on the roster, one that will be difficult for them to earn given just how limited snaps are in a crowded filed of receivers. They've cobined for just one reception in the preseason. One of these players will land on the practice squad.
And the winners are...
If I had to make an educated guess right now, I'd say the receiver race shakes out like this:
- Amendola, Gibson
- Sims-Walker - gets it based on his track record and I expect him to play better this week.
- Avery - He reminded us that he has the talent. Keep a close eye on him this week in the all telling third preseason game.
- Salas - He won't last on the practice squad, and there's just too much potential here.
- Gilyard - The special teams play is telling.
- Pettis - It probably comes down to seven receivers for the Rams, and they won't want to let a third-round pick get away just because he had a rough preseason.