Rams news these last months, whether article or video, have all followed a similar path -The defense rocks, the offense is a big question mark. Of the pundits commenting on the Rams offense, most of the talk has been about Bradford and his ACL injury/recovery. After dissecting that angle for the ga-jillionth time, they trot out the now stale lines about the receivers...no true #1 wideout, someone needs to step up, etc. etc.
This has lead me to start taking a closer look at those receivers. On paper, there seem to be a wealth of talent. Yet, we all know they had a less than stellar year last season. The quick and easy (lazy) answer is that Sam Bradford went down for the season in week 7, and while Kellen Clemens played his heart out, he just doesn't have the arm of a starter. Is that really all there is to it?
Being unsatisfied with the lazy answer, I start looking and I quickly zeroed in on Chris Givens. Givens, to me, seems to personify the Rams receiver corps. Talented, but not putting up the numbers expected of that talent. Further, his two seasons as a Ram, have been quite different in production.
2012 - 42 receptions for 698 yards and 3 TDs on 81 targets (rookie)
2013 - 34 receptions for 569 yards and 0 TDs on 83 targets
That's a pretty solid outing for a rookie, followed by a not-so-solid outing in 2013. What happened? It can be written off as a sophomore slump, or we can recall how it's often said that wide receiver is the hardest position to transition to in the NFL. Again, this seems like the lazy answer to me. I feel compelled to write those arguments off as cliches... Then I remember that cliches are cliched for a reason. Those tacks have merit. Still, I want more explanation. Was it really because Sam Bradford was out for half the season?
More quick stats-
Games 1-7 2013 Season
18 receptions for 295 yards. He was targeted 40 times.
16 receptions for 274 yards. He was targeted 43 times.
So, we see the two halves of last season are so close it makes no difference (I am not a math whiz). Since he had only one reception in the game vs Carolina, and I can't determine who threw that ball, I consider it inconsequential. The first half of the season was marginally better than the second, statistically. It should be noted that by far his best game was in week two vs Atlanta, where he had 5 receptions for 105 yards. All in all, I reject the change of quarterbacks argument. It doesn't hold a lot of weight.
So what explains his drop in production then?
Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson. While this wasn't in the same league as Isaac Bruce and Tory Holt, this was a good wide receiver tandem and opposing defenses schemed for them. This left Chris Givens often facing a lessor defensive back, one on one, and many times out of the slot. He found himself open often, and Sam and Chris connected for some solid, if not Earth-shattering numbers. Then, of course, both Amendola and Gibson were lost to free agency. This left Givens as the defacto number one and reaping all the attention that entails. Better corners and more safeties over the top.
Only time will tell for Chris Givens if he can truly step up and be the #1 wideout, or if he will flourish more as the #3/slot guy. Naturally, if he ends up as that slot receiver, the question is, who will be that #1?