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  1. #1
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    Rams Expect Wide Receivers To Improve

    Rams expect wide receivers to improve

    BY JIM THOMAS
    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    Coach Steve Spagnuolo believes teams get better through three main areas: the draft, free agency and self-improvement. In fact, he says "70 percent of getting your team better is getting improvement out of the guys that you already have."

    Will that be the case for the Rams' wide receiver corps in 2011? With free agency in flux, and the top two wideouts in the draft (A.J. Green and Julio Jones) expected to be gone before the Rams pick, Spagnuolo's theory may be put to the test.

    "Obviously Sam (Bradford) can't do it on his own," Spagnuolo said. "But if things go like you would hope in Sam's second year, I think whoever's out there at wide receiver especially the guys that were there a year ago I think their game will elevate because we're banking on Sam's game elevating."

    For that to take place, Spagnuolo and the Rams are banking on the wide receiver corps staying healthy. Knee injuries sidelined Donnie Avery for the entire regular season, ended Mark Clayton's season early in Game 5 (in Detroit) and slowed Danario Alexander throughout the year.

    "If I was going to play the odds, you would hope that after a season of having injuries at that one spot, that maybe this year you wouldn't," Spagnuolo said.

    Is it a risk the Rams are willing to take? Clayton is scheduled for free agency but is expected to re-sign with the Rams. Clayton isn't quite at 100 percent as he recovers from patellar tendon surgery. Meanwhile, Avery's rehab is going well, according to Spagnuolo.

    "Donnie Avery looks great," Spagnuolo said. "You know, when Donnie and I talked a year ago at the end of the (2009) season I said, 'You've got to be a durable guy, and that takes the offseason.' Because he would catch a pass and it seemed like every time he got up I told him this something was sore.

    "So he worked on it last year, and of course he had the (knee) injury, and with this time with rehab that still rings in his ear. He has really taken a step to get his body ready to play an NFL season."

    Alexander, meanwhile, told the Post-Dispatch earlier this month that his left knee, which has been operated on five times over his football career, feels great.

    "This is the first year in how long knock on wood that nothing's happened to him," Spagnuolo said. "That he's had an offseason that he's getting ready to play and not rehabbing. I don't want to put a lot of pressure on Danario, though."

    After spending the first five weeks of the season on the practice squad, Alexander appeared in eight games. But his reps were limited in most of those games as he fought through knee issues. So in Spagnuolo's mind, he'll be almost a rookie again in 2011.

    "Kind of like when Jason Smith came back for his second year," Spagnuolo said.

    Otherwise, Spagnuolo is looking for receivers such as Brandon Gibson and Mardy Gilyard to make leaps in their play. Gibson didn't even dress for the Rams' first two games last season. Spagnuolo didn't like his approach to the game. But he finished the season second to Danny Amendola in catches (53) and yards (620).

    "I'm very proud of him," Spagnuolo said. "Him and I had some deep talks. Just heart-to-heart, man-to-man, very open, very honest. What I thought he had to do. He shared the same things his goals, visions, objectives. And he just wasn't going about it the right way."

    But Gibson improved his practice habits and his blocking and cut down on his dropped passes as the season progressed.

    "That's a good story, I think, right now," Spagnuolo said. "I hope it even gets better."

    Gilyard, who's rehabbing from wrist surgery, is another story. A story in progress.

    "You know, Mardy's got that unique ability that wherever he is, whoever's he's around, he makes people feel good," Spagnuolo said. "And don't tell him, he has that effect on me, too. Because I'll always tell him, 'You know Mardy, I really like you, but ...' "

    Then comes the critique.

    No comp picks

    For only the second time in 10 years, the Rams received no compensatory draft picks. The league announced Friday that 23 teams will receive a total of 32 picks for the 2011 draft.


  2. #2
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Expect Wide Receivers To Improve

    I certainly appreciate the sentiment that you want to develop the guys you have. But there comes a time when you have to stop waiting on the guys you have to get better, and instead, go out and get some better guys.

    Aside from Donnie Avery, the Rams' receiving corps is made up of either mid-round or undrafted young players (Gilyard, Alexander, Curry) or unwanted parts from other franchises (Clayton, Gibson, Robinson, Amendola). Some of these players are serviceable, but waiting around for one of them to suddenly flip the switch and become a game-breaker doesn't seem like an incredibly wise strategy to me. Yet that's essentially what the Rams have been doing for a few seasons now.

    If the Rams come out of this offseason without a significant upgrade at the WR position, then I'm sure the guys they have will be solid if they can stay healthy. But I'd be willing to bet that, by this time next year, we're once again talking about the need to upgrade at the position.

  3. #3
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    Re: Rams Expect Wide Receivers To Improve

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    I certainly appreciate the sentiment that you want to develop the guys you have. But there comes a time when you have to stop waiting on the guys you have to get better, and instead, go out and get some better guys.
    Maybe Spags is engaging in some pre-draft posturing, but it's pretty evident that the Rams have got to get a consistent playmaker at WR to jump start the the offense and give Bradford a chance to break out and utilize all his abilities. It would be disappointing if the WR issue was not addressed because like you intimated Nick, it's not going to go away.

  4. #4
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    Re: Rams Expect Wide Receivers To Improve

    I agree Spags may be doing some pre-draft posturing to defray the thinking the Rams will definitely select Jones because if teams think we're going that way for sure, we could get jumped if Jones is still there. Washington is looking for picks so they may be tempted to trade down for extra picks with someone.

    Go Rams!

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    Re: Rams Expect Wide Receivers To Improve

    We have some talented guys like Avery Clayton Amendola and Alexander. It's just health concerns. If Jones falls to us we have to take him but I wouldn't mind getting more depth later in the rounds or mardy gilyard finally doing something. Maybe he should learn the playbook.

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    Re: Rams Expect Wide Receivers To Improve

    Headline should read:

    Rams Expect To Improve WRs. I can guarantee you there are going to be a lot of disappointed fans on draft day if the Rams don't come good on a new WR core.

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    Re: Rams Expect Wide Receivers To Improve

    All too obvious (for me) that Rams go either JJ or AJ on D-day. Fresh, good WR potential w/these rookies.

    Jones / Green
    --

    But I feel we DO have a good crop of WRs in the making. Let's keep improving the Bradford Boys then:
    1) Amendola.
    2) Avery;
    3) Clayton;
    4) DX;
    5) Gibson;
    [Gilyard?];
    6) Green or Jones;
    7) Robinson.

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    Re: Rams Expect Wide Receivers To Improve

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    I certainly appreciate the sentiment that you want to develop the guys you have. But there comes a time when you have to stop waiting on the guys you have to get better, and instead, go out and get some better guys.

    Aside from Donnie Avery, the Rams' receiving corps is made up of either mid-round or undrafted young players (Gilyard, Alexander, Curry) or unwanted parts from other franchises (Clayton, Gibson, Robinson, Amendola). Some of these players are serviceable, but waiting around for one of them to suddenly flip the switch and become a game-breaker doesn't seem like an incredibly wise strategy to me. Yet that's essentially what the Rams have been doing for a few seasons now.

    If the Rams come out of this offseason without a significant upgrade at the WR position, then I'm sure the guys they have will be solid if they can stay healthy. But I'd be willing to bet that, by this time next year, we're once again talking about the need to upgrade at the position.
    I don't think that just because Spags is expecting better production out of his existing receivers that he is not also intending to upgrade at receiver if the right options are available. I'm pretty sure that if JJ is still there when the Rams pick in the 1st round the Rams will be thrilled.
    But on the other hand I wouldn't want them to be so locked into the idea of improving at WR that they over spend for a free agent or over reach for a receiver in the draft if there are better options available at other positions of need.

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