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  1. #1
    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Gordon: Avery's comeback gets Rams attack up to speed ..

    BY JEFF GORDON STLtoday.com
    Monday, August 22, 2011 12:30 am

    Wide receiver Donnie Avery is back. And so is the excitement in the Rams offense.

    That was the best news gleaned from the Rams’ rather uneven preseason performance against Tennessee on Saturday night.

    Avery can run again. He claimed a 4.25 time in the 40-yard dash during his recovery from knee surgery.

    Then he showed that burst against the Titans, blowing past their defense on his 19-yard touchdown reception.

    This is an element the team missed dearly last season, after Avery suffered a season-ending knee surgery. Mark Clayton arrived in a trade, flashed his own big-play skills . . . but then he, too, suffered a season-ending injury.

    Those casualties hamstrung the Rams offense last season. Quarterback Sam Bradford stayed in ball-control passing mode most of the season at the behest of then-coordinator Pat Shurmur.

    This season, new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels hopes to get the ball downfield with Bradford and the much-improved receiving corps.

    “Bradford had the lowest average completion among starting quarterbacks last year -- Ram receivers had a 9.9-yards-per-catch average last year -- while McDaniels' receivers in Denver were at 12.9,” wrote Sports Illustrated NFL columnist Peter King. “Take a look at the Rams receivers, and you don't see a proven deep threat among them. But Brandon Lloyd was roster flotsam in Denver before last year, and he finished with an 18.8-yard average on 77 catches. It can be done.”

    Clayton is still recovering from his injury, but it appears Avery has made it back from his repairs. Maybe, just maybe, he could become the field-stretching target the Rams envisioned when the team drafted him instead of DeSean Jackson.

    Avery’s persistence in rehabilitation impressed the organization.

    “I’m really proud of Donnie and happy for him,” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said during his postgame news conference. “I’d see him in the training room all last year -- that’s not easy to do. And it was in a preseason game he got hurt. So he was out the entire season, all 16 games. His teammates are celebrating when they win; I’m sure he feels just as bad when we didn’t.

    “And then he has a little setback in training camp, but he bounces back and played the way he did tonight. It was good. Encouraged.”

    With Avery back to full speed, the Rams have eight solid job candidates at receiver. Spagnuolo and McDaniels will sort through the current mix of size, shiftiness and speed to settle on the 2011 corps.

    Brandon Gibson, the team’s No. 2 receiver by default last season, turned heads with his 83-yard reception on the opening offensive play Saturday night. He is not a big-time deep threat, but he offers decent wheels to go with decent size.

    During in-game interviews, Gibson gushed about the new offense.

    “That’s what this offense brings to the table, a lot of explosive plays and hopefully we can continue to build on that,” he said. “In order to keep the defense honest, you’ve got to take shots. That’s a well-known fact, so I think we’re going to build on that as well.”

    Newcomer Mike Sims-Walker caught one big pass over the middle, but failed to corral another that turned into a Titans interception.

    “It felt good to be out here,” Walker said Saturday. “I’ve got some rust to knock off still. I haven’t practiced much and it’s kind of aggravating not being able to do what I want, but it was good to get out of here and get hit again, catch a ball or two and get your feet wet.”

    Those three receivers and ever-reliable Danny Amendola appear to be Bradford’s top targets for this season. Behind them, the Rams have rangy playmaker Danario Alexander, a resurgent Mardy Gilyard, sturdy rookie Greg Salas and third-round pick Austin Pettis.

    Gilyard has flashed promise in both kick returning and kick coverage. His explosiveness was also evident with his one reception Saturday; he has the wheels to turn short passes into major gains.

    Salas got a lot of late-game work against the Titans. He dropped one pass, but came back and made a terrific catch and carried a defender past the first-down marker. That was why the Rams drafted him.

    While the Titans appeared to lose interest during garbage time of this game, the Rams receivers were making the most of their long-awaited repetitions. No. 3 quarterback Thaddeus Lewis did the team a huge favor by throwing the ball around to multiple targets.

    “I’d just use Greg Salas as an example,” Spagnuolo told reporters Sunday. “He didn’t play in the first game, so we certainly wanted to amp up his reps.

    “And we’d like to get a number of those receivers more reps going forward, but we don’t know how many plays in a game the offense is going to get. It certainly was less this week than it was last week, just by the nature of the way it went.

    “So we’re going to have to make sure that in practice we get them to them. I think all the guys realize that every rep, whether it’s on the practice field, in the Dome, away at Kansas City or away at Jacksonville is going to be really important.”

    The energy this competition is generating is palpable. The receivers keep trying to one-up each other.

    As Avery works to get a leg up on his rivals, the whole offense benefits from the job race. Thanks to his (thus far) successful comeback, it appears this team will be a lot more fun to watch this season.


  2. #2
    BEER's Avatar
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    Re: Gordon: Avery's comeback gets Rams attack up to speed ..

    he nows how to run, how to catch, but he cant fall right! dude gets hurt every time.

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    Azul e Oro is offline Registered User
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    Re: Gordon: Avery's comeback gets Rams attack up to speed ..

    I am happy to see Avery get a chance to resuscitate his career but I still think Gibson will make this team & is just as likely, if not more likely, to be McD's new Brandon Lloyd. While Avery's speed can help him beat his guy individually, effective play action like that which caused the blown coverage on Gibson's bomb TD, reliable route running, & hands are more important.Throw in an effective backfield and the plethora of possession guys who distract the defense- it was Kendricks & showing a two TE formation with SJ in the backfield on the Gibson play, right ?- and McD's stress method of getting guys open trumps simple speed,imo.

    Until Avery, DX, and MSW can prove they can stay healthy and make the tough catch consistently, my money is on Gibby.

    Given the number of blitzes on defense, shots taken by Locker & Smith, and the absurd last second timeout, I'd say The Titans were far from disinterested in the final result; they just couldn't stop it. They just got beat & got beat by good blitz pickups, gutsy QBing by The Thadiator, and a bunch of solid 5-15 yd pass plays that so many seem to be sneering at right now; " meh...just another checkdown to Amendola/Kendricks/Pettis/Salas".....

    For me, it's the kind of highly efficient multifaceted football that has made The Pats so frustrating to play against & I'm hoping to see from STL this year.The sexy stuff will come in time. I can't be the only fan who remembers how little Hoodie's crew did offensively in the SB vs The Rams. It was an efficient grinder of a drive that got them into position for Vinatieri's winning kick. I doubt it made it less fun for Pats fans.I know I could live with it.
    Last edited by Azul e Oro; -08-22-2011 at 01:45 PM.

  4. #4
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    Re: Gordon: Avery's comeback gets Rams attack up to speed ..

    Quote Originally Posted by BEER View Post
    he nows how to run, how to catch, but he cant fall right! dude gets hurt every time.
    I hear you. He flops all over the place when he lands, arms and legs flailing. I held my breath on his TD catch as he rolled between defenders. Avery is fast, explosive and elusive, but he needs work on his landing technique and stay healthy.

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    Re: Gordon: Avery's comeback gets Rams attack up to speed ..

    Avery's TD showed me just what the Rams offense has missed. Straight line speed. If only he can stay injury free,???. I hear DX is having an MRI on his knee and Mike Hoom.............. has another injury. IF the news is the worst for Alexander, then he is probably done.??? Big Mike is one jinxed dude.?????

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