When Danny Amendola walked off of the field against the Arizona Cardinals, throwing his helmet against the wall as he heading in to the locker room, the NFL completely denounced the St. Louis Rams offensive outlook. There is no doubt Amendola had been the best player on the offensive side of the football, maybe even the best player on the entire team. However, it was absurd to believe that Bradford did not have enough talent on the roster to compete on a weekly basis. Brandon Gibson, Lance Kendricks, and, of course, the running back duo out of the backfield helped out Bradford tremendously in Week 6 against the Miami Dolphins. However, the real “hook” to hang your hat on from the game is the progression of the younger receivers, the rookies, and how they are contributing on the field.
In game one of the regular season, Quick and Givens were on the field for a total of 21 offensive plays, and neither player made a reception. The next week, against the Washington Redskins, the tandem put up eerily similar numbers, this time playing a total of 23 snap and still not recording a catch. This began the churning of the rumor mill that the upper tier of the St. Louis 2012 Draft class had been a complete failure. Putting Janoris Jenkins aside, this is how the rest of the first 7 picks were doing:
- Michael Brockers (1st Rounder) had been manning the sideline with an ankle injury
- Isaiah Pead (2nd Rounder) had been benched in favor of fellow rookie Daryl Richardson
- Brian Quick (2nd Rounder) had been on the field for a grand total of 6 snaps
- Trumaine Johnson (3rd Rounder) had not played much, although lack of playing time in such a talented and dominating secondary is certainly not a knock against him.
- Chris Givens (4th Rounder) was sitting the bench more often than not, had dropped a couple of deep balls, and managed 0 catches for 0 yards in two games.
- Rok Watkins (5th Rounder) was, and is, on the IR, and will not be returning this season after extremely limited time on the field.
If that was that was not bad enough, we found out hours before the Chicago Bears game in Week 3 that Brian Quick had been placed in the inactive list, and not because of injury, but rather in favor of Austin Pettis returning from his 2 game suspension for taking Adderall. Givens saw even less of the field than he had all season, playing only 14 snaps in the most disappointing offensive performance of the season. However, he did manage to nab 2 catches for 9 yards, although he was tackled for no gain on one of those receptions.
After the offensive embarrassment, Coach Fisher decided to make some switches in the receiving rotation. He benched Steve Smith, and reactivated Quick to the roster against the Seattle Seahawks. Reports emerged that Fisher thought Quick was “a better matchup” against the formidable ‘Hawks secondary, although it was likely a case of a “let’s see what the kid can do on the field” attitude by the coach. The two played a total of 59 snaps, their season high to this point, against the division rivals. Givens and Bradford finally connected on the long ball, which was the reason why the St. Louis Rams drafted him in the first place. His 52 reception set up the Rams in range for one of their four field goals that put St. Louis on top at the end of the game. Quick recorded his first NFL reception, hauling in a 19 yard rope from Bradford on a pivotal third down late in the game.
Against the Arizona Cardinals, Quick and Givens played for 56 snaps. Bradford finished the game with only 7 completions, so there were not too many receptions to go around, especially with Amendola in the game. Quick was held without a catch in this contest, but Givens came up huge in his fifth NFL game. After the injury to Amendola right before the half, Bradford finally started to look at other receivers on the field. With his eye focused away from his newly-lost, favorite receiver, Bradford found Givens streaking up the sideline after a double-move for a 51 yard touchdown. The play put the Rams up 17-3, sealing the second divisional win of the season, and putting St. Louis above the .500 mark for the first time in half of a decade.
Last week, against the Miami Dolphins, both rookies receiver set career highs in playing time. Quick was on the field for 17 snaps, while Givens started 62 of 73 snaps as the compliment to Brandon Gibson (who played only 47 of 73 snaps) on the outside. In fact, only Lance Kendricks (63 of 73 snaps) was on the field more as a receiver the Givens against the Miami Dolphins, which is understandable given that he plays a secondary role as a blocker. Quick managed to pull in 1 reception for 1 yard on 2 targets from Bradford, which came on a pivotal third down on the second-to-last play of the game. It was nearly his first touchdown reception of the year, but it was deemed that Quick had not pushed the ball across the plane before being wrangled to the ground. Givens, in extended time, caught a career high 3 receptions for 85 yards on 7 targets.
Both rookies have seen more of the field and more targets each game since the Week 3 loss to the Chicago Bears. Quick is getting more looks from Bradford, and was trusted to be on the field in, arguable, the most critical offensive situation the Rams have been in the entire season. Alternatively, Givens is now the second leading (active) receiver on the St. Louis Rams roster. He has 7 receptions for 197 yards (28.1 yards per catch) and a touchdown. Givens has also caught a pass for 50+ yards in three consecutive games, which, according to Mike Sando, is the first time that has happened in nearly two decades.
This week, the St. Louis Rams are going up against a passing defense that can range anywhere from completely dominate to non-existent on any given Sunday. The Pack have allowed 1381 yards through the air (21st) and given up 10 receiving touchdowns (T-21st). However they are also in the Top 10 in both sacks and interceptions, and typically hold opposing quarterbacks below an 80.0 QB Rating this season. Assuming that the offensive line can continue to be effective against dominating, pass rushing defense, the St. Louis Rams could see a big day from both Quick and Givens on Sunday.