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What happened to Chris Givens?

The Rams leading receiver as a rookie in 2012 hasn't made as much noise on the field this season. What's changed?

Stephen Lam

We got a good question on Twitter about Chris Givens. Specifically, it was what the heck happened to the St. Louis Rams wide receiver between 2012 and 2013?

Givens burst onto the scene as a rookie last year. He led the Rams with 698 receiving yards, and emerged as more than just a deep threat when pressed into service for the injured Danny Amendola. Take a look at his stats from last season:

Year G GS Rec Yds Y/R TD R/G Y/G Fmb
2012 15 12 42 698 16.6 3 2.8 46.5 0
2013 12 11 30 493 16.4 0 2.5 41.1 1
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/3/2013.

His numbers are down, but not noticeably. Givens is averaging about five yards less per game. The change in receptions per game is insignificant. Rams quarterbacks have targeted Givens an average of 5.67 times per game this season, a slight increase form 5.13 targets per game last season.

On the surface, everything looks about the same. Dig a little deeper, and it becomes clear what's keeping Givens from making the leap in his sophomore season.

Catch rate

Givens caught 54.4 percent of the passes thrown his way last year. His catch rate has plummeted to an abysmal 44.1 percent this season. If he was catching passes at the same rate he was last season, he's finish the year with approximately 809 yards. The Rams haven't had a player finish the season with at least 800 receiving yards since Torry Holt did it in 2007.

Balls deep

Another thought, what about Givens' effectiveness on the deep ball, passes thrown 20 yards or more down the field?

Here are Givens' deep numbers from 2012 (numbers via Pro Football Focus):

Targets Catches Drops Catchable Yards Catch rate
25 8 2 10 318 32 percent

*Catchable is basically what it sounds like, it gets scored as a reception or a drop from PFF's game film analysts. Admittedly, it's arbitrary, but it's still a useful guideline.

And here are his deep ball stats for 2013 so far:

Targets Catches Drops Catchable Yards Catch rate
12 2 3 5 72 16.2 percent

That's a pretty notable drop off on the deep ball for Givens. Other receivers have cut into his deep targets this season, cutting them roughly in half. Even with the decline in deep targets the drop in catch rate is hard to explain.

His catch rate with Sam Bradford versus Kellen Clemens is notable. Excluding the Carolina game where Bradford was injured, Givens caught 50 percent of the passes from Bradford. He's only caught 37.5 percent of Clemens' passes thrown his way. He's dropped three passes from each quarterback. The data doesn't breakdown the depth of targets on a game-by-game basis, so it's hard to say which QB has thrown more deep targets to Givens.

Drops are a bigger problem this year too. As mentioned above, he dropped six through 12 games this season. He dropped a total of five last year. His overall drop rate has increased by about 6.5 percent year over year.

One more notable change from last year to this one: the slot. Givens has been targeted seven times out of the slot, and caught five of those passes. That represents 13.7 percent of his total targets this season. He caught six passes on 10 targets from the slot all of last year, when 17.9 percent of his targets came out of the slot. That's not a huge change, but it's enough to make an impact in his overall numbers.

So what's the difference with Givens the rookie versus the sophomore? 1. Fewer deep targets, less success on them, 2. His numbers have fallen off with Clemens at QB, 3. Drop rate, and 4. Less work out of the slot.

The good news here is that it looks like nothing more than a sophomore slump. He's still getting more snaps and more targets than any other receiver on the roster. A couple less drops, a little more work out of the slot and he could have been on target for 1,000 yards.