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    Bernie Bytes: No Amendola, no problem?

    5 hours ago • BY BERNIE MIKLASZ

    Good morning. This week I'll try and take a look at some Rams-related questions as the team ramps up for Sunday's season-opener against Arizona at The Edward Jones Dome.

    Today: Rams QB Sam Bradford must cultivate a new go-to receiver in the wake of Danny Amendola's free-agent exit to New England.

    It's been overstated by pundits and fans, but there's no question that Amendola was Sam's favorite receiver during the quarterback's first three NFL seasons, 2010-2012.

    (Note: updated with a correction of the Rams' record when Amendola played, and their record when he didn't.)

    * Using numbers culled from the data base at Pro Football Focus, when Bradford targeted Amendola over the past three seasons he completed 71 percent of his passes and averaged 6.5 yards per attempt. Bradford had a 91.9 passer rating when going to Amendola. The numbers weren't nearly as good when Sam targeted other receivers — though not as bad as some have claimed. And as I'll show you, Bradford did well when going to other wideouts in 2012.

    * In 2010, Amendola had a WR rating — which uses the same formula to determine passer rating — of 94.5. No other Rams' wideout had a WR rating better than 81.7. And that guy, Mark Clayton, blew out an Achilles in the 5th game and was lost for the season.

    * I'm not taking 2011 into account because it's a throwaway season that would only distort the overall stats. Amendola caught five passes early in the season's opening game, was injured, then missed the final 15 games. The '11 roster was ravaged by injuries. Bradford (ankle) played only 10 games and spent five of those games limping around on a bad wheel. But in that first game of 2011, Bradford targeted Amendola six times and completed five passes; they had the magic working again, seemingly building on 2010. And then Amendola busted his elbow, and his season was over after only 40 snaps.

    * Amendola was Bradford's favorite target on third-down plays between 2010-2012. Over that time, Amendola made 52 third-down catches and Bradford completed 59 percent of his third-down throws when he went to Amendola. Over the three seasons, no other Rams WR caught more than 35 passes on third down.

    * The Rams won more frequently with Amendola in the lineup, and struggled to win during his down time with injuries. When Amendola played the Rams were 12-15-1 ... when he was out, the Rams were 4-16. The most notable gap came during the disaster of 2011. While it would be pretty dumb to attribute the disparity in the won/lost record to Amendola's presence, it's obvious that the Rams were a better team when he played.

    * Amendola made his money as a slot receiver. In 2010 and 2012 combined, he was targeted 177 times as a slot receiver. Bradford connected with him 128 times for a slot completion percentage of 72.3. Amendola amassed 1,146 yards receiving and 6 TDs as a slot guy in 2010 and 2012 combined. In 2010 Amendola has 77 slot receptions; no other Rams WR had more than five.

    The question: Can Bradford thrive without Amendola?

    Of course he can.

    There's no question that Amendola was Bradford's only consistent receiver in 2010. He went to him early and often. Amendola had far more targets and catches than all of the Rams wideouts. Bradford knew that Amendola would run smart and sharp routes. He knew that Amendola would be mentally on top of things. He knew that Amendola would shake open. He knew that Amendola was pretty much a constant check-down option. And Bradford knew Amendola would catch the ball.

    Why would anyone be surprised that a rookie quarterback would rely on the team's only dependable receiver in 2010? It worked. Bradford stayed with it.

    The 2010 Bradford/Amendola numbers were so predominant and top heavy that they skewed the entire three-season period. The notion that Bradford is useless unless he's dealing to Amendola is preposterously inaccurate.

    But I completely understand why so many would fall into that trap; again, the 2010 Bradford-Amendola connection was so strong that it distorted the picture.

    We began to see a fairly significant change in Bradford's ability to diversify and hook up dependably with other wide receivers.

    Here are the numbers for each of the primary Rams' wideouts in 2012, courtesy of Pro Football Focus:

    BRANDON GIBSON

    Targeted: 75 times.

    Completions: 51

    Completion percentage: 68 percent.

    Receiving yards: 691

    Yards Per Target: 9.2

    Touchdowns: 5

    Interceptions: 2

    Rating: 108.3

    CHRIS GIVENS

    Targeted: 77

    Completions: 42

    Completion percentage: 54.5

    Receiving yards: 698

    Yards Per Target: 9.06

    Touchdowns: 3

    Interceptions: 1

    Rating: 92.9

    AUSTIN PETTIS

    Targeted: 46

    Completions: 30

    Completion percentage: 65.2

    Receiving yards: 261

    Yards Per Target: 5.6

    Touchdowns: 4

    Interceptions: 2

    Rating: 90.9

    DANNY AMENDOLA

    Targeted: 94

    Completions: 62

    Completion percentage: 65.0

    Receiving yards: 664

    Yards Per Target: 7.06

    Touchdowns: 3

    Interceptions: 2

    Rating: 88.3

    That's right: of the Rams' top four wide receivers in 2012, Bradford had his lowest passer rating when trying to connect with Amendola.

    This is not a reflection on Amendola or his skill level; what these numbers represent is the increase in viable receiving options available to Bradford.

    In 2012, Gibson was in his fourth NFL season and began to emerge as a solid receiver. Pettis was entering his second season and figured to improve, which he did. Givens, a rookie in '12, brought a desperately needed speed element to the Rams passing attack and had five consecutive games with at least one catch of 50+ yards.

    Bradford had more appealing choices at WR in 2012 compared to previous years, and he spread the ball around accordingly. He didn't have to rely on Amendola so much because Danny was no longer the only receiver that the QB could trust. Besides, Bradford had no choice, really; because of injuries, Amendola played in 11 games and started eight. Bradford had to cultivate chemistry with other wide receivers, and he began to do that.

    As we mentioned earlier, Amendola was essentially the only slot WR this team had in 2010, but Pettis began to make some impact in the slot in 2012. When Pettis lined up in the slot last season, Bradford went to him 34 times and completed 25 for a completion rate of 73.5 percent. And two of Pettis' four TDs originated from the slot.

    Given Bradford's display of diversifying and improving in 2012, it's reasonable to conclude we can expect more of the same this season.

    That's because the Rams have provided even more options in flex tight end Jared Cook, rookie Hot Wheels car Tavon Austin, and another rookie WR in Stedman Bailey. The maturing Pettis is into his third season and had a great camp. Givens should make a jump forward in this, his second NFL season.

    We haven't discussed the role of tight ends in our look at Bradford, but we mentioned Cook because we can expect to see him frequently line up in the slot. Austin will be cast in many roles and should team with the Cook and Givens to give the Rams some decided matchup advantages.

    In evaluating Bradford and his chemistry with wide receivers, it's more relevant and meaningful to put the focus on 2012 rather than make the avoidable mistake of dwelling on what happened in 2010 and 2011. So that's what I've attempted to do here.

    One thing, though: Amendola led all Rams' receivers in the number of third-down catches in 2012. Bradford simply didn't get enough going with other WRs on third down last season. Bradford had terrible numbers in this area last season; his third-down passer rating was a horrendous 69.3. That's one of the challenges Bradford faces in 2013, but the offensive boost in speed and firepower should help.

    Thanks for reading ...

    — Bernie


  2. #2
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    Re: Bernie Bytes: No Amendola, no problem?

    This article is nice but it doesn't really factor in the increased attention that defences placed on Amendola following the second game of the season against Washington, where Danny had 12 receptions in the first half.

    A possible reason that players like Gibson and Pettis resulted in better passer ratings for Sam was that the defences were concentrating on Amendola

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    Re: Bernie Bytes: No Amendola, no problem?

    My thought is this...

    If Sam is going to have a go-to guy, I'd rather it be a big receiver like Cook, or a playmaker like Austin, than a chain-mover like Amendola. As reliable as Danny was, he could be knocked off is route (unlike a guy like Cook) and really didn't offer much after the catch (unlike Austin).

    Danny will thrive in the New England offense, and I wish him the best. But I think the Rams were right not to get in a bidding war for his services.

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    Re: Bernie Bytes: No Amendola, no problem?

    I hope Sam's go to guy is the guy that is open. No more locking onto DA and forcing throws due to the lack of separation by the other receivers. Pre snap Sam's needs to read the defense and know where the mismatch is and exploit it. The last thing I want to see is one guy catching most of the balls week in and week out.

    Austin Pettis: Yards Per Target: 5.6. Not what you need from a wide out. I know he did this as a slot because that is what he is IMO.

    The question: Can Bradford thrive without Amendola? Did he thrive with him? I thought Sam was just average at best. Thrive three TDs, thrive??? I think he will thrive if he can get through his progression fast and find the open receivers.

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    Re: Bernie Bytes: No Amendola, no problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rambos View Post
    I hope Sam's go to guy is the guy that is open. No more locking onto DA and forcing throws due to the lack of separation by the other receivers. Pre snap Sam's needs to read the defense and know where the mismatch is and exploit it. The last thing I want to see is one guy catching most of the balls week in and week out.
    Well stated Ramsbos. Spreading the ball around successfully really stresses a defense, does wonders for a running game a well.

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    Re: Bernie Bytes: No Amendola, no problem?

    I always liked Amendola and his 150% effort but at the same time always had my fingers crossed that he would not get injured. He is already having injuries issues with the Pats and every local mdeia guy here in the Boston area uses the term "Amendola if he can stay on the field". Too bad he's fun to watch but just unlucky with the injury bug I guess?

    I really believe our offense this season is going to be a lot different than the past few seasons. No more Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson. Bradford as all NFL QB's will have his go to guy whoever that will be. I do see the ball being spread around more via the air....

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