When you think about the skill positions for the St. Louis Rams, the only thing that comes to mind is who the team has lost. Unless you have been living under a rock; then you know Danny Amendola signed with the Patriots, and Brandon Gibson with Miami. The importance of those two cannot be overstated. Between Gibson and Amendola, the duo combined for 114 receptions, 1,357 yards, and eight of Bradford’s 21 passing touchdowns. Therefore, the question looms: Does Sam Bradford have enough weapons to be successful now? The answer, in my opinion, is yes; here’s why.
When the wide receiver position is put under a microscope; players such as A.J. Green, Roddy White, and Julius Jones come to mind. All have breakaway speed, great hands, and can create separation at the drop of a hat; Chris Givens can be that guy. Last year, Givens caught 42 balls for 698 yards, and three touchdowns. At times, Givens showed speed and quickness that blew cornerbacks away. In the Week 12 game vs. Arizona, despite tight coverage from Cardinals’ Safety Justin Bethel, Chris caught a 37-yard touchdown pass; that put the Rams ahead for good. Matter of fact, in that game, he caught five passes for 115 yards, and THAT touchdown. Comparing Givens’ stats against Amendola’s, Chris caught twenty-one less passes, but compiled thirty-two more yards. A year later, inside the same system, expect Chris Givens to ascend to that next level. Also add in Austin Pettis, who showed signs of improving last year, as well. Had it not been for a 4th Down acrobatic, one-handed catch in Buffalo by Pettis against the Bills, the Rams lose that game. There is no diving touchdown catch by Brandon Gibson in the back of the endzone. Pettis caught four touchdowns himself in 2012, while compiling 261 receiving yards for the Rams. He can be the slot receiver Danny Amendola was, if not better.
Next is the Tight End position, where we find Lance Kendricks and the newly acquired Jared Cook. After starting slow last year, Lance went on to make forty-two catches for 519 yards, and four touchdowns; including an 80-yarder to start off the second half of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As that play came together, Kendricks found open space in the middle of the field, Bradford fired a strike to the tight end; and Lance was off to the races. The kid from Wisconsin will improve drastically with a year under his belt in this system, and with the acquisition of Jared Cook from Tennessee. Cook’s statistics from a year ago in Tennessee are similar to Kendricks’ in St. Louis, but many feel he was not used correctly in the Titans’ offense. Adding to that, between Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker, many of their throws ended up going the other way. Cook caught forty-four passes for 523 yards, and had four touchdowns in 2012. He will help this offense tremendously. He can be a traditional Tight End, or can be moved into the slot, as a third or fourth receiver. At 6-5, 248 pounds, Cook can burn. He runs a 4.4, 40-yard dash time, and runs well for a big man. He will make a great target for Sam Bradford, and coverage could allow Kendricks or another receiver to run free.
For all of this to happen, Bradford has to be able to throw the ball; enter Tackle Jake Long. Despite injuries that marred his time with the Miami Dolphins, Long went through what seemed to be a month of MRI tests before signing with the St. Louis Rams. Team doctors gave Jeff Fisher and Les Snead the thumbs up, and Long was signed. In 2012, he only started twelve games, but in the game vs. St. Louis, he handled the pass rush very well. The Rams are hoping a healthy Jake Long can return to the Pro Bowl caliber tackle, he once was.
Finally, and what could be the most important weapon; Brian Schottenheimer. At this point, I imagine the confused, “what in the world is he talking about,” look. In Sam Bradford’s career with the St. Louis Rams, he has never had the same Offensive Coordinator in consecutive years. With Bradford having a full season and offseason under Schotty, Sam will flourish when it comes to running a successful gameplan and make him a more confident leader. Givens, Pettis, the emergence of Lance Kendricks, the hopeful improvement from Brian Quick, and the additions of Long and Cook in this familiar system; should lead the Rams on the cusp of getting into the 2013 NFL Playoffs.