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Los Angeles Rams: On Offense, Jeff Fisher and Steve Spagnuolo Have Something In Common

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The title of this article kind of made me "gulp n' gurgle" as I wrote it, but it may be more true than not. Looking back over the past 8+ years, I'm curious just how far the Rams have come as a team. Inside this time frame, both Jeff Fisher and "The Clapper" Steve Spagnuolo have left an imprint, with strong defenses being the bell-weather, and "ground 'n pound" offenses being a searched for norm...

Ok, let's get the #1 wide receiver thing out of the way. Both Fisher and Spagnuolo have shown a lack of desire to put high draft day capital - or free agent resources - into the position. I'm guessing it has to do with the base philosophy of a "run first" offense opening up pass catching opportunities. It's a base, sound - "If this, then that" - way of approaching the game of football. It's worked for quite a few teams, but the NFL is evolving in a way where staying the course - set down in the past - makes it tougher to succeed.

Entering the 2016 NFL season, the Rams are pinning their hopes on a wide receiver corp filled with possibilities. A week or so ago, Jeff Fisher told the NFL world how he thinks Tavon Austin could/should be a "100+" catches receiver this season? It's entirely possible, but to do so Austin will have to achieve the lion's share of his production in short yardage routes. Austin is definitely a guy you want touching the ball as often as possible. His ability in the "yards after catch" realm is undeniable. Yet, can he withstand the pounding on his 5'7", 170-ish lbs frame that's coming his way making a living in the land of linebackers and safeties?

Kenny Britt is starting his 8th NFL season. During his career, he's never topped the 1,000 yard receiving mark, and hasn't caught over 48 passes (he caught 48 with the Rams in 2014). Brian Quick showed flashes, - before going down with a shoulder injury - so all eyes will be on him after signing a one year "prove it" contract in the off-season.

Spagnuolo hit the draft with early and mid round draft stock a couple of times. Remember Greg Salas and Austin Pettis? Both looked like receivers who could be possession types, but little else. How about Donnie Avery? I was fairly high on the Avery pick, but he didn't pan out. Yet, I can't help but see a few similarities between him and Tavon Austin? True, Avery wasn't used as a running back like Austin has been, but the speed-set similarities are there.

I guess where I'm going with this, is the uncomfortable trend both Fisher and Spagnuolo had for receivers who can't command a defensive secondary to both respect and game plan for; taking heat off of the running game. In a perfect world, shouldn't both aspects of an offense - rushing and passing - feed one another? In a way, I think I can see a linch-pin both these NFL head coaches hoped for, but haven't quite achieved: A great Tight End. In an odd way -looking at the offensive styles of Fisher and Spagnuolo -, the fact a tight end who can block and catch seems to be their Holy Grail. Fisher just took a swing for the fences in the 2016 NFL Draft with off-field troubled Tyler Higbee. His college film shows he checks all the boxes as a tight end who has a chance to be the kind of player Fisher needs. He tried - and failed - with signing Jared Cook, and his lack of blocking skills will go down in NFL lore. But I can see what Fisher was aiming for with Cook: A tight end who could hit the seam up the deep middle in single coverage...

All in all, I have little trouble seeing the Rams receiver corp as the single, glaring -"What's Going To Happen?" - concern point for the Los Angeles Rams in 2016. For this team to succeed, it's the receivers who'll mark whether this franchise can get the under .500 win/loss record monkey off their backs...