Givens in a Hurry to Help
Like any rookie, Chris Givens is going to have to endure a learning curve before he becomes the type of well-rounded receiver that can be used in just about any situation in the offense.
But for now, in the opening stages of what looks like a promising NFL career, Givens’ job is relatively simple with no false pretense asking him to do something out of his grasp.
That was readily apparent in Givens’ first preseason game as his instructions were quite simple.
“Yeah, it was just all deep routes,” Givens said, a smile creeping across his face. “Whatever coach (Brian) Schotty and coach Fish have in store for the game plan that week, that’s what I am going to go out and do.”
When the Rams used the first pick of the fourth round in April’s draft on Givens, coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead made the impetus for the selection resoundingly clear.
Givens has a gift that few of his teammates and not many players have in general: pure, unmitigated speed.
For a receiving corps devoid of a true, stretch the field game breaker, Givens was a perfect match, the type of player Fisher and Snead envisioned running deep posts and go routes while quarterback Sam Bradford heaves it as far as he can and Givens runs under it.
Givens has had no problems embracing that role early in his first training camp.
“Whatever it is that is going to get me on the field the fastest, that’s what I am going to do,” Givens said.
What it is that will get him on the field is no secret. In his time at Wake Forest, Givens earned a reputation as a speed burner. He ran a sub 4.4 40-yard dash at February’s scouting combine and holds the fourth fastest 100-meter dash time in Texas high school history at 10.44 seconds.
Givens ended up leading the Demon Deacons in receiver in each of his three seasons in Winston-Salem and surpassed former Ram Ricky Proehl as the school’s all time leading receiver.
The Rams have lacked a wideout with Givens’ ability to take the top off a defense for some time after Donnie Avery showed flashes but never was able to stay consistent and on the field.
Givens has impressed Bradford the first few weeks of camp.
“It’s hard to single out one guy, but I think Chris Givens has played really well over the past couple weeks,” Bradford said. “He’s smart; he understands what we’re doing. Rarely does he make a mental mistake. He always seems to be in the right position. I’ve definitely been impressed with what he’s been able to do throughout camp so far.”
In last week’s preseason opener, Givens’ mission was obvious and the Rams made no secret of their desire to get him the ball deep down the field. Givens officially caught one pass for 13 yards from third team signal called Austin Davis but he was the target of three long balls that each would have gone for long gains had Givens been able to haul them in.
Two of those passes came from backup Kellen Clemens.
“I felt like all of them were going to go to the house,” Givens said. “Things happen and me and Kellen are going to continue to work on our timing as well as me and Sam. It’s something that will come in time.”
Indeed, the thing missing from each attempt seemed to be timing. On the first attempt, a deep post down the middle, Clemens under threw Givens, who drew a 54-yard pass interference penalty as he was impeded trying to come back to the ball.
On the next attempt, Clemens rolled to the right and got plenty of air under it but it fell harmlessly to the ground just barely out of the reach of Givens. The third and final deep ball attempt came from Davis, who also just barely under threw Givens though Givens nearly adjusted and hauled it in anyway.
“He bumped me a little bit and that’s no excuse but it definitely threw my focus off the ball,” Givens said. “It’s just something that happens and something that happens for me to learn from and I know how to adjust to it so it won’t happen again.”
While Givens wasn’t able to haul in any of the deep balls, he did come out of the game with a boost of confidence in knowing that his speed translates to the NFL and he can run with defenders in the league.
“I just wanted to go out there and prove that I was a legit deep threat,” Givens said. “That’s what my goal was to just go out there and show my speed and just showcase what I can do.”
The next steps for Givens will be to become more of a complete receiver, even if that process doesn’t happen right away.
To do that, Givens will have to push through the grind of training camp first and foremost.
“He’s got the legs and the deep threat and he can get down the field,” Fisher said. “I think he’s a little tired right now. He’ll get his legs back and I think he’ll probably be even more productive for us.”
Givens will get more opportunities to work with Bradford and the first team as camp wears on. Those opportunities should allow for Givens to begin getting his timing down with Bradford and continue to stay in his playbook.
Although Givens came with a reputation as a strong route runner, he knows he still has plenty of work to do. He’s impressed his coaches and teammates with his propensity for taking notes and putting in extra work when nobody is around.
“That was something at Wake that I took serious,” Givens said. “It helps out with my film watching. That was one of the biggest step ups in my game over the years was how well I took notes and things like that.”
At various times, Givens can be found studying film on his own or diligently taking notes in meetings. With a golden opportunity to play and contribute right away, he wants to ensure no stone goes unturned.
“I have been putting in extra work at night and in the mornings just to go over things and make sure I am right on my landmark and things like that,” Givens said. “It’s a difficult offense just because there is so much to go in each day but at the same time if you put in that time, it kind of slows down and becomes a little bit easier for you.”
As the game slows down for him, expect Givens to do what he’s always done: speed up.