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Thread: Even In Loss Rookies Catching On
Even In Loss Rookies Catching On
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Rams might have been provided a glimpse into the future on their lone touchdown drive Sunday in a 23-16 loss to the New England Patriots.
With the Pats in front 7-3 late in the first quarter, the Rams faced third and 9 at their 13-yard line. Failure on the next play probably would've afforded New England good field position and a strong opportunity to expand its lead.
Quarterback Marc Bulger went to rookie wide receiver Keenan Burton, whose diving catch for 14 yards extended the drive. Two plays later, Bulger found Donnie Avery — another first-year wideout — streaking over the middle for a 69-yard touchdown.
Just like that, the Rams had bolted in front. "The more big-play people we can get, the better," guard Richie Incognito said.
Avery, a second-round draft pick, certainly has earned that tag, and Burton, a fourth-rounder, might just be on the cusp. The two combined for eight receptions and 204 yards — a gaudy 25.5-yard average per catch — in front of 68,756 at Gillette Stadium.
Avery established career highs in catches (six) and yards (163). For the season, he has 21 receptions for a team-high 347 yards — and he has put those up in just four games. He missed the opener with a knee injury and played only sparingly in Week 2.
"I can't dwell on the numbers because we didn't get a win," said Avery, a 5-foot-11, 184-pound speedster from the University of Houston who was the first wide receiver taken in the draft. "We just didn't get it done at the end."
On the long TD, Avery beat cornerback Ellis Hobbs, hauled in Bulger's toss near the Patriots 30-yard line, then shrugged off safety James Sanders.
Yards after the catch, he said, are a priority for him. "The objective is to get the ball and then try to make something happen," he said. "That's what I tried to do."
A 44-yard strike to Avery down the right sideline led to a field goal and a 16-13 Rams lead early in the fourth period before New England rallied. "He's definitely a game-changer," Incognito noted.
A few weeks ago, Bulger said he had to adjust to Avery's speed. That project is perking right along. "I think he's starting to learn me and I'm starting to learn what he does good and the things that suit him," Bulger said. "He could be really good."
Avery has taken over the No. 2 wideout spot that belonged to Isaac Bruce before he was released and signed with San Francisco. The youngster insisted that he isn't intimidated at jumping into the role of a likely Hall of Famer. "I'm not worried about any of that; I can't compare myself to him," Avery said. "I'm just trying to make plays. That's it."
Comparatively speaking, Burton's stats paled when put up next to Avery's. Burton had two catches, but they produced 41 yards. In addition to the big third-down grab, he picked up 27 yards on a toss across the middle. Like Avery, Burton was stalled by injuries early in the season. But he's beginning to find a rhythm, he said, and he credits veteran Torry Holt with helping him to adapt.
"I always look for confirmation from him, because he's done it so much and done it so well for so long," Burton said. "It's just great to be around him, to watch him and to grow with him."
Count Holt as a fan of the newcomers.
"Donnie and Keenan both are scratching the surface," Holt said. "I'm really excited and really impressed with the way they've come along thus far. They have a lot of stuff being thrown at them, and they're handling it very well.
"I'm proud of those two guys."
Re: Even In Loss Rookies Catching On
I'm excited about our rookies. The ones who have played thus far are proving to be quite effecient on the football field. Kind of gets me curious as to what King might do had he not been injured.
I'm glad we got these guys, they're going to grow to be superstars. Long, Avery and Burton. We had a good draft this year no doubt. Hope these guys continue to grow as the season progresses.
Re: Even In Loss Rookies Catching On
The rookies are certainly casting a very bright future for our team.
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