Tyson Langland, over at Bleacher Report, probed the St. Louis Rams’ Twitterverse a couple of days ago, asking who the fans believed would breakout during the 2013 season. Results from those responses were mixed. However, in the end, he mentioned six players in his article “6 Rams Players Primed for a Break Out Season in 2013,” including: Brian Quick, Michael Brockers, Jared Cook, Trumaine Johnson, Isaiah Pead, and Robert Quinn. Sadly, we at Ramblin’ Fan disagree with about half of that list. So, we figured we would give our soon-to-be stars, and given a subtle rebuttal to a couple of players from their list…
1. Chris Givens
Brian Quick should show significant improvement over last season; but, then again, that is not saying too much. If Quick can beat out Stedman Bailey for the other outside receiver slot, he definitely has the chance to make a huge impact in the offense… just not as much as Chris Givens. Givens was the lone star in the offense last season, at least at receiver. For a stretch in the middle of the season (Week 6 through Week 13), he averaged 4.8 catches and 74.5 yards per game, including four games with over 20.0 yards per receptions.
Although he did reach a rookie record in consecutive games with a 50+ reception, Givens showed he was more than a pure burner, even catching 11 passes for 92 yards against the San Francisco 49ers. He did all of that while the secondary focused nearly all of their attention in his direction, with Amendola still ailing and no other viable receivers on the roster. Now, with big-time threats in Jared Cook and Tavon Austin and more playing time, Givens should skyrocket to the next level.
2. Daryl Richardson
While most have jumped back on the Isaiah Pead hype-wagon, Daryl Richardson remains the only player on the roster to have taken starting-caliber carries in a game. As the stand-in for Jackson at the beginning of the season, Richardson gained 431 yards on 80 attempts, good for 5.3 yards per carry. Even after getting shut down to mere pity carries in the final five games of the regular season, Richardson managed to maintain 4.8 yards per carry for the entire year, including an average of 2.8 yards after first contact; right on par with players like Marshawn Lynch (2.8), Alfred Morris (2.9), and ahead of Steven Jackson (2.7), Frank Gore (2.6), and Arian Foster (2.2).
However, Richardson was also effective in the passing game, with 163 yards on 24 receptions, including 188 yards after the catch… no, that was not a typo. Unfortunately, Richardson was on the receiving end of some ill-advised throws from the backfield, getting the ball dumped to him in the flats, even with a defender draped all over his back, which often resulted in negative yards. However, he also took several throws for huge gains, tallying 137 yards after the catch from passes thrown to him behind the line of scrimmage. Not too bad…
While there should be an “open competition” for the lion’s share of first-team rushing reps, there doesn’t appear to be any reason why Richardson would not repeat as the projected front-runner coming out of camp.
3. Janoris Jenkins
As outstanding as Jenkins was in the turnover game, the Rams’ sophomore starting-cornerback was not always the best in coverage, with some fairly significant lapses in the middle of the season. In fact, Jenkins ranked in the Bottom 15 corners in the league in receiving touchdowns allowed (5), although part of that blame goes to Craig Dahl for failing to help overtop. Jenkins gave up the highest catch percentage on the team (61.7%), often giving extremely large cushions on the outside. However, Jenkins did rate among the top of the league with 10 pass deflections (T-13th), allowing only 10.8 yards per reception (T-20th), and snagging 4 interceptions (T-4th). He also finished out the year strong, allowing only 13 catches on 23 targets (56.6%) in the final four games of the season, not allowing a single touchdown or more than 50 receiving yards in a game, and snagging an interception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the finals game of the season, Russell Wilson did not target Jenkins’ man on a single attempt, despite playing 62 of 65 defensive snaps in the game… the definition of “shut down.”
This is nothing against Trumaine Johnson, but it would be hard to imagine the third corner on the depth chart putting up “break out” numbers in a season. If the St. Louis Rams were to play 2013 out of the nickel package as much as they did in 2012, Johnson would be looking at anywhere between 600 to 700 defensive snaps, or about two-thirds the numbers of snaps as Cortland Finnegan or Janoris Jenkins. However, with the selection of Alec Ogletree, it would be hard to image the Rams not devoting more time to their base 4-3 defense in the coming year, especially if the rookie linebacker is an solid in coverage as he was through the rookie minicamp. When the Rams’ are in the nickel, Johnson does get the added benefit of playing on the outside, against some of the more targeted receivers. However, it would be hard to imagine a scenario were St. Louis’ other sophomore cornerback put up numbers that would make him stand out among all of the talented defensive backs in the NFL.