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Alexander impacts Rams offense ..
BY BILL COATS Friday, December 31, 2010 12:10 am
After viewing film of wide receiver Danario Alexander, who was on the practice squad Oct. 3 when the Rams played Seattle, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll came to an unambiguous conclusion.
"We've got some problems with him," Carroll said this week during a break in preparations for Sunday night's NFC West-title showdown at Qwest Field.
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Alexander has been creating problems for defenses since a growth spurt — he was 5-9 and 105 as a freshman — kick-started a breakout season his senior year at Marlin (Texas) High.
Recruiters began to swoop into the town of about 6,000 near Waco, but Missouri got there first and earned Alexander's commitment. Alexander set a flock of records with the Tigers, toppling most of the sterling marks that All-American Jeremy Maclin had just established.
MU quarterback Blaine Gabbert called Alexander, who has covered 40 yards in 4.4 seconds and topped 40 inches in a vertical leap, a "freak." Coach Gary Pinkel described him as "a creature."
Which makes one wonder just how much Alexander could have accomplished for Mizzou had a succession of injuries not interfered. Most significant were the continuing problems with his left knee.
Alexander underwent a fifth surgery on the knee in late October, a cartilage clean-up procedure. There was an upside to that operation, though: Alexander reports that his knee feels better than it has in a long, long time.
"That's obviously a great thing," he said. "It doesn't hurt at all."
Signed by the Rams on Aug. 22 as an undrafted rookie and promoted to the active roster Oct. 12, Alexander now is in a position to inflict pain rather than absorb it.
When Alexander, the club's only true deep threat, is on the field and contributing, the effect on the Rams' offense is obvious.
"It just gives us the ability to stretch the field a little bit more," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "It seems like when he's showed up and had big games for us, we've been able to create some explosive plays with him. And I think that's one of the big reasons that our offense seems to click a little bit better when he's on."
The results, as well as the statistics, support Bradford's assertion. The Rams are 4-3 in games in which Alexander has appeared. More impressively, they're 3-0 in those is which he's had a significant role in the offense:
• On Oct. 17, Alexander caught four passes for 72 yards, including a diving, 38-yard touchdown grab, in a 20-17 victory over San Diego.
• On Nov. 26, Alexander had four catches for 95 yards in a 36-33 triumph at Denver.
• Last Sunday, Alexander produced six receptions and 99 yards as the Rams turned back San Francisco 25-17.
"We feel good when he's on the field," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said, smiling.
In those three games, Alexander combined for 14 catches and 266 yards, a 19.0 yards-per-catch average. His season totals are 17 receptions, 292 yards and a team-high 17.2 yards per catch.
A great target
Bradford is particularly pleased to have Alexander — who has been nicknamed the "DX missile" — in his arsenal. "Sam certainly likes to throw to him," coach Steve Spagnuolo said.
The rookie from Big 12 Conference rival Oklahoma has put together his two most productive passing days when Alexander has been a staple in the attack: 308 yards vs. the Broncos and 292 vs. the *****.
In Alexander's three big outings, Bradford connected on 64.7 percent of his passes, tossed five touchdowns, no interceptions, and compiled a glitzy passer rating of 102.7.
The Rams averaged 27.0 points in those three games; their average for the 12 other games is 16.7.
"I kind of take pride in that," Alexander said. "But the ball is spread around throughout the team. I think that's more of what's happening instead of me; the ball is getting spread around. For me to just be a part of the offense is pretty big for me."
Alexander spent the early part of the season soaking up as much as he could in the classroom and on the practice field, while working to strengthen the muscles around his balky knee. He tweaked it in practice Oct. 29, had it repaired that afternoon, and returned against Denver a month later.
Alexander was on the field for 43 of the Rams' 66 plays against the Niners, as Shurmur leaned heavily on four-wideout sets, especially in the early going. Obviously, the Rams have determined that Alexander's knee can hold up to a heavier workload.
"I think he's as healthy as we've seen him," Shurmur said. "He ran around well (vs. the *****), he caught the ball, and he ran after the catch."
'Just the beginning'
Alexander is catching the attention of Rams opponents. "He's a fast guy," Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant said. "All the way around on the defense, we've got to know where he is and we've got to be on our 'A' game."
Despite his quick start, Alexander's "A" game remains somewhere in he future, he emphasized.
"Oh, yeah; this is just the beginning," said Alexander, 22. "I'm not even close to reaching my potential. It's going to be pretty good down the road."
For now, he's content to have overcome the injury questions that kept him out of the draft and to have proved that he can be successful at the NFL level.
"It's very satisfying. It just shows that if you have a dream, never give up on it," he said. "I've gone through a lot throughout my whole career, beginning at Mizzou. But I love this game, and I want to play it well. I just try to keep going, persevere.
"I'm very appreciative of this opportunity I'm getting, so I try to just have fun on Sundays and make the best of it."
Re: Alexander impacts Rams offense ..
Of course a lot of us "know it alls", have been talking about his impact since his first game in uniform. How he looked like the team's best receiver from the first time we ever saw him play. Just didn't understand why he was not a primary target from that point on. Who knows, maybe we'd be in the Playoffs already had he been implemented in more gameplans.
I guess it's better late than never.
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