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    Breaking down wide receivers: St. Louis

    Breaking down wide receivers: St. Louis
    June, 22, 2011
    By Matt Williamson

    Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson breaks down the wide receivers of each NFC West team. Today: St. Louis Rams.

    St. Louis has a lot of wide receivers in the mix. The quality here isnít bad, but the quantity is a bit overwhelming.

    The Rams' best wideout from last year, Mark Clayton, was injured (knee) in just the fifth game of the season. Now he is scheduled to become a free agent. But it was apparent that Clayton and quarterback Sam Bradford had an excellent rapport, and Claytonís quick movement skills lend themselves well to playing in St. Louisí dome. He has good hands and can be quite effective on the outside or in the slot. Nothing is known at this point, but it seems likely that Clayton will return to the Rams. That would probably be the best move for both player and team.

    St. Louis now has plenty of slot options, but none is a better fit or more reliable than Danny Amendola. Much like Wes Welker in New England, Amendola should see a ton of short targets on option routes and act as an extension of the Ramsí running game. He has great short-area quickness and reads a defense very well on the move. Amendola was excellent in a similar role last season, and his contribution to this offense under Josh McDaniels should only increase going forward. This guy catches everything thrown his way.

    Donnie Avery injured his knee in the preseason and was lost for the entire season. He is a big-time burner, and one hopes the injury has not taken away Averyís best asset -- that deep speed. Avery is another guy who could flourish in this system with McDaniels calling the plays and Bradford a year older. Or, he could quickly fade away, considering all the options St. Louis has in this passing attack. This is a pivotal season in Averyís career.

    Danario Alexander, who is extremely tall and lanky, might be the most interesting case of this bunch. After starting the season on the PUP list, Alexander played in only eight games but made several big plays and certainly made his presence felt. He can get downfield. The sticking point with Alexander is his durability. He has had several serious knee issues, and counting for him for the long haul might be foolish. That's why he was undrafted coming out of college. McDaniels might work wonders with this player much as he did with Brandon Lloyd in Denver last season. But Alexander needs to stay on the field.

    The Rams used a third-round pick on Austin Pettis and a fourth-round pick on Greg Salas. Did they really need to use two prominent picks at this position? I suppose I can excuse it if they were torn between Pettis, a bigger body who is more of a chain-mover, and Salas, a bigger-than-usual slot guy, in that third round and were shocked that Salas lasted to the fourth. In fact, I think Salas is the superior player, but Clayton can play the slot and Amendola looks to have that position all but locked up. Although I donít commend the Rams for taking two wideouts, I do believe Salas was a quality selection judged on its own merits.

    Along with Clayton, Laurent Robinson could hit the open market. Robinson is a smooth glider but is injured far too often. Considering how he played when healthy last season and the numbers crunch at wide receiver for St. Louis, he is likely to be playing somewhere else in 2011.

    Brandon Gibson steadily improved. Gibson saw the field as much as any Rams wide receiver last season and finished the year with 53 catches for 620 yards. Both stats were good enough for second on the team. He has a strong, well-built body that he uses well, but he drops too many passes and is not much of a downfield threat.

    Mardy Gilyard did very little as a rookie. Considering how crowded the Ramsí wide receiver situation is right now and considering that he hauled in only six passes last year, Gilyard had better show noticeable improvement quickly to ensure his roster spot. But Gilyard also brings returner skills to the table, so it is too early to write this guy off after just one season.

    A lot will change between now and the final cut-down day. But the Rams might have to let a promising wide receiver go when it is all said and done -- and still could be without a true No. 1 option at the position.


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    Re: Breaking down wide receivers: St. Louis

    St. Louis now has plenty of slot options, but none is a better fit or more reliable than Danny Amendola. Much like Wes Welker in New England, Amendola should see a ton of short targets on option routes and act as an extension of the Rams’ running game. He has great short-area quickness and reads a defense very well on the move. Amendola was excellent in a similar role last season, and his contribution to this offense under Josh McDaniels should only increase going forward. This guy catches everything thrown his way.

    I found this bugging me for a while after reading it. Seems that using DanAm in that very short pattern role as an extension of the running game was a definite product of the defenses stacking or playing within five yards of the LOS last year to stop SJ and the lack of ability to threaten deep.

    Use DanAm in a similar role, sure. But if he's still catching the ball two yards deep behind the LOS, then McD hasn't earned his pay (of course granted the necessary players are healthy). I think that if some of that issue is dealt with, DanAm will either be targeted less or be targeted at least further down field on average than last season.
    Semper Fi!

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    Re: Breaking down wide receivers: St. Louis

    Quote Originally Posted by Richbert88
    Use DanAm in a similar role, sure. But if he's still catching the ball two yards deep behind the LOS, then McD hasn't earned his pay (of course granted the necessary players are healthy). I think that if some of that issue is dealt with, DanAm will either be targeted less or be targeted at least further down field on average than last season.
    I think it's a gimme that Amendola will probably be going a little deeper this year. Look at the Welker role in McD's offense as opposed to the role in Shurmer's offense. I'm excited to see how McD will use Danny this year.

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    Re: Breaking down wide receivers: St. Louis

    I'm really looking forward to seeing how McDaniels uses Amendola this year. I remember when the Patriots were putting up video-game points every week Welker was a very prominent weapon in their offense. Players like Welker or Amendola will overmatch an LB and most safeties in the short field. If defenses stack the box again this year and play Avery and Clayton 1-1 I think they'll get burned a lot. Having Amendola coming out of the slot creates a great mismatch that I think McDaniels will exploit.

    I agree that the screen passes got pretty old last year, but I think that was more a product of throwing WR's out there who couldn't beat 1-1 coverage. If the defense plays back (or zone) Amedola is great over the middle and should exploit it. If they stack the box like they did last year, hopefully having a healthy WR corp will make them think twice about that (not to mention the benefits to SJ)

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    Re: Breaking down wide receivers: St. Louis

    Quote Originally Posted by Ramendola16 View Post
    I think it's a gimme that Amendola will probably be going a little deeper this year. Look at the Welker role in McD's offense as opposed to the role in Shurmer's offense. I'm excited to see how McD will use Danny this year.
    Emphasis on the "little." Last year, Amendola averaged 8.1 yards a reception, and Welker (w/ McDaniels as OC) averaged 10.5 in two seasons. So you're probably right in anticipating that Amendola will get some more opportunities down the field, but if he's used in a Welker-like role, he'll probably still be doing some of the same things he's been doing now. Meaning I'll be surprised if he suddenly becomes a guy averaging 12-15 yards per reception.

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    Re: Breaking down wide receivers: St. Louis

    I wouldnt be surprised if Amendola is slowly phased out of the line up. I love his heart and toughness but Im hoping Salas is a bigger, better version of Danny Amendola.?

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    Re: Breaking down wide receivers: St. Louis

    Quote Originally Posted by GROUND DOG 39 View Post
    I wouldnt be surprised if Amendola is slowly phased out of the line up. I love his heart and toughness but Im hoping Salas is a bigger, better version of Danny Amendola.?
    Well considering that Amendola is arguably the best slot receiver in the NFL, it would be surprising. Salas has a ways to go before he even cracks the starter role. Remember, everyone had the same hopes for Gilyard last year and that didn't exactly turn out as planned.

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    Re: Breaking down wide receivers: St. Louis

    Amendola has a worse average per reception than big SJ, he is not the best in the slot position by any means, crazy talk. I do like him a lot on our team but in all honesty he is nothing special.

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    Re: Breaking down wide receivers: St. Louis

    Amendola is a proven commodity. If Salas makes Amendola expendable it will mean he's possibly the top slot receiver in the NFL. Color me doubtful. If I'm Salas, I'm focusing my future a little further away from the QB.

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    Re: Breaking down wide receivers: St. Louis

    Quote Originally Posted by GROUND DOG 39 View Post
    Amendola has a worse average per reception than big SJ, he is not the best in the slot position by any means, crazy talk. I do like him a lot on our team but in all honesty he is nothing special.
    I'm having a hard time understanding how his Y/R has anything to do with him as a WR. It has everything to do with the playcalling and when Bradford decides to throw the ball. If you're suppose to run a WR screen..you run a WR screen. If you were able to watch the games (and I'm assuming you were in the UK) you'll remember seeing other teams put their best CB on Amendola on third down because he was the ONLY reliable receiver the Rams had last year. Or double team him on 3rd down because teams quickly realized he was the only Ram getting open. He's really quick, great hands, plays well over the middle of the field, and Bradford trusts him. I'm not sure what more you're looking for in a slot guy.
    Last edited by AtlantaRamFan; -06-23-2011 at 12:20 PM.

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    Re: Breaking down wide receivers: St. Louis

    I didnt watch all the games AtlRamFan, but I saw enough in the last 12 games to warrant an opinion. I do think he is a good player for the Rams and look forward to seeing him this season.?
    Id like to see him get a bit more YAC though, he just doesnt have the footspeed to take it the distance in my opinion. I could be underestimating Amendola, as he did get very little help at WR.

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    Re: Breaking down wide receivers: St. Louis

    Forget about the yards per catch, yards after the catch etc etc etc ....The key to me is that he catches almost everything thrown his way. Amendola is definitely one of our many assets on this team.

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    Re: Breaking down wide receivers: St. Louis

    Quote Originally Posted by GROUND DOG 39 View Post
    Amendola has a worse average per reception than big SJ, he is not the best in the slot position by any means, crazy talk. I do like him a lot on our team but in all honesty he is nothing special.
    Seriously? Amendola is nothing special? You really want to say that? How about you read the article in the post below, and then you come back and tell me that Danny Amendola is nothing special. Please. Go on, do it.

    Interesting stats on Danny Amendola ..

    Oh, you're back? Did you notice the ONE, yes ONE, statistic in which he was not top 5? Of course that one is completely skewed based on scheme, which is exactly why Welker isn't in the top 15 either. How about the two where he was ranked #5 in percentage of plays from the slot and total number of slot snaps and then all of the rest he's either #1 or #2?

    So wait, Amendola was #5 in slot snaps, but was the most targeted slot receiver and caught the most balls in the slot last year? In the whole NFL? And had the second most yards from the slot as well while having the LOWEST depth of target in the league? Well how the heck did he do that? Two ways, volume and shiftiness. He caught a ton of balls(#2 in raw catch percentage) and then had the most yards after catch by almost 50 yards.

    Amendola was bar none, the best slot guy last year, and I think that's why McD signed on with us. Computers come with Microsoft Office preloaded, the Rams came with Wes Welker preloaded.

    Anyway, now that my rant is done, here's my view of the situation. Looking at the receiver depth chart before the draft, we had Amendola locked down in the slot for another year or two(anyone know when his contract is up?). Avery has one more year before free agency, DX is a year to year proposition due to his knees, and then we have two youngsters from the last two drafts who have done either ok(Gibson was our best guy outside of Amendola last year due to last one standing syndrome), or failed to get on the field when we were almost taking guys off the street. I wonder if Papale can still run a dig route? I won't even mention Robinson.

    Also, we have Clayton waiting to resign, so he'll be the sole definite long term guy out of last year's group due to him not having much of a chance to go elsewhere and because of his really good immediate rapport with Bradford. It just makes sense. But what about the rest? We can dump all of them at any time with little to no cap repercussions. So, in the draft, we go out and grab a 6'3" guy in Pettis who we can train up as an outside guy and replacement for Avery/insurance for DX in 2012, while Salas is a bigger slot guy but is very quick and has hands just as good as Amendola, and so he becomes the replacement for Danny when his contrat is up.

    I think that the first 4 picks in this draft were all based not on what they could this year(no offseason is going to kill rookie production this year in my opinion), but in 2012 and beyond. Quinn has been out of football for a year, so he'll have rust to shake off and will need to learn a more complete game(run stuffing and zone coverages) but is maybe the best natural RE in the draft. Sounds like a perfect guy to reshirt a year while Hall starts following a career year. Kendricks, Pettis and Salas will all need a season or two to both learn the system and to get into NFL shape, including learning the speed of the game at this level. Typically recievers(and I include TE in this) explode in their 3rd season. Look out 2013 when we may have all three starting(Salas in the slot).

    In my continued view, our WR roster will be Clayton, Avery, DX, Amendola, Pettis, Salas, and then maybe Gilyard or Gibson(if still eligible) on the practice squad. Both draft picks this year are too good to be able to leave them on the PS unprotected.
    Last edited by TekeRam; -06-23-2011 at 04:15 PM.
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