Sam Bradford’s ACL injury was the single most impactful moment of the 2013 NFL season for the St. Louis Rams. Any hopes the team had of returning to the playoffs all but vanished as the 2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year lay on the sideline in Carolina.
The Rams lost valuable time to evaluate Sam Bradford’s progress as a starting NFL quarterback, and for at least another season the questions regarding his status as a Franchise QB will persist.
Previously we discussed how the injury to Sam Bradford likely impacted second year wide receiver Brian Quick, and this article will follow a similar format as the article on Quick, which can be found here.
It is my opinion that the injury to Bradford likely had the greatest impact on the development of Brian Quick, but next in line in terms of negative impact was likely Chris Givens.
Givens had what could be considered a breakout season in his rookie year, setting an NFL rookie record for most consecutive games with a 50+ yard reception as a fourth round selection out of Wake Forest.
Givens’ finished his rookie campaign with 42 receptions for 698 yards and 3 touchdowns, finishing the season as the teams leading receiver in terms of yards gained.
In 2013 Givens finished the season with 34 receptions for 569 yard and zero touchdowns, he also failed to have a single reception of 50+ yards in 2013. This was certainly a disappointing season for a player who appeared poised for a true breakout year in 2013, with many NFL pundits labeling him as a player to watch before the season began. I for one was almost certain he had a shot to be the first Rams wide receiver to break the thousand yard barrier since Torry Holt.
Chris Givens started his rookie campaign pretty much as a deep threat only, with relatively limited ability to work the short and intermediate routes. Of course with Danny Amendola on the team Givens didn’t really need to develop that area of his game.
When Amendola went down Givens was forced to expand his route tree, and along the way he showed the ability to work the short and intermediate routes as well as the deep routes. The general thought regarding Givens this offseason was he could develop into a reliable all around receiver if he put in the effort during the offseason.
When the news hit that Steven Jackson was going to be headed out of St. Louis as a free agent, it became clear the Rams offense would revolve around Sam Bradford and his abilities.
As the most productive receiver on the team in 2012 it appeared as if the connection Bradford and Givens had established in his rookie year would carry over into 2013 and he could establish himself as the teams #1 option. During the preseason Bradford and Givens flashed that big play connection on a couple of occasions, which helped to further the expectation that Givens was in for a big year.
When the Rams opened the season in their pass happy offense, Chris Givens was receiving plenty of targets, a total of 27 targets over the first four weeks of the season resulting in 13 receptions and 235 receiving yards including a five catch 105 yard outing in Atlanta.
While the offense in general sputtered with the lack of a running game, Givens was still finding a way to be productive and was on pace for 50+ receptions and 900+ receiving yards.
Before looking at the statistics I would have assumed the Rams transition to the power running game would have opened up big plays for Givens via the play action. This wasn’t the case though as he managed only 4 catches for 60 yards over weeks 5-7 when both Zac Stacy and Sam Bradford were in the starting lineup, with the longest reception being a 24 yarder against Carolina that was more of a 3 yard route and 21 yard run. So what do the advanced statistics from footballoutsiders.com say about Chris Givens?
The numbers on Givens indicate he was an even bigger disappointment in 2013 than just raw statistics could show. While Brian Quick was on track to be a top 25 wide receiver in terms of DVOA Chris Givens ranked 82 in the NFL.
In fact all of the advanced statistics that FBO ranks have Givens in the low to mid 80s. I have no idea how the formula is put together, but I am almost certain that the 41% catch rate is going to drag Givens down. The thing to keep in mind regarding Givens and his low catch rate is that he is primarily a deep ball receiver, and the deep ball is generally a 50/50 play in the NFL.
A 41% catch rate would be truly alarming if the player was suffering from a high drop rate, so I decided to hit sportingcharts.net again and see how Givens stacked up in that regard.
Givens had 2 drops in 2013 which put his drop rate at 2.4%, a respectable number that puts him 2nd among Rams receivers with at least 20 targets. Stedman Bailey unsurprisingly lead the Rams in drop rate having zero drops on 25 targets in 2013.
So where does Givens’ 2.4% drop rate rank among other NFL wide receivers? Givens’ 2.4% drop rate is ver similar to Keenan Allen 1.9%, Golden Tate 2.0%, Jimmy Graham 2.1%, J Blackmon 2.1%, Jordy Nelson 2.4%, DeSean Jackson 2.4%, Emmanuel Sanders 2.7%, and Tony Gonzalez 2.5%. That is the kind of company you want your receivers to be in when it comes to drop percentage.
What about his 41% catch rate though, surely it is far lower than any of the big name wide receivers in the NFL right? The 41% catch rate is fairly similar to following receivers for which I have put their catch and drop rates together for comparison: Mario Manningham 39.1%/8.7%, Santonio Holmes 39%/6.8%, TJ Graham 40.4%/5.3%, Greg Little 41.4%/6.1%, Justin Hunter 42.9%/0%, Sidney Rice 42.9%/2.9%, Darius Heyward-Bay 45.3%/9.4%.
When looking at Givens’ numbers for catch and drop rate it becomes apparent his numbers suffer from the type of plays he runs as well as QB accuracy. While the 45% catch rate he had when Sam Bradford was the quarterback was less than impressive it is far better than the 37% catch rate with Kellen Clemens at quarterback.
Just how bad is 37 percent, well it would have given Givens the 2nd worst catch rate among WRs with at least 20 targets, besting only Kenny Britt and his 31.4% catch rate with an 11.4% drop rate.
So do we learn anything about Chris Givens’ season from these advanced statistics we didn’t already know? It is hard to say anything other than the season qualifies as a sophomore slump, although that would certainly be over simplifying things. So lets take a look at the numbers comparing Givens when Bradford was on the field versus when Clemens was on the field.
|With Bradford||Without Bradford|
|Yards per reception||16.4||17.1|
When you take a look at these numbers it doesn’t really appear much changes for Givens when Clemens takes over. The total receptions and yardage numbers are fairly close, with a slight bump in yards per reception once Clemens took over. However, when you look back at Givens’ game numbers you will see he accumulated 41.3% of his total yards and 38.2% of his receptions in the first four weeks.
For a player who didn’t miss a single game in 2013 that is an awfully front heavy stat line. Clearly the change from running the hurry up offense with multiple wide receiver sets had a huge impact on Givens’ production.
If you look back at the article we did on Brian Quick you will also see he really began to come along in weeks 5-7. The combined effect of Brian Quick’s emergence in weeks 5-7, and a diminished deep passing game with Kellen Clemens make it tough to say exactly how much the loss of Bradford hurt Givens’ development.
One thing the raw statistics can’t tell you is how important Bradford’s accuracy is to the type of routes Givens is likely to run. Givens is not just a great deep threat, he is also a shifty and dangerous runner in the open field as was on display with his 24 reception against the Panthers.
When running shallow crossing routes designed to get an a player open in space the ball must be placed perfectly and on time, something Clemens just doesn’t do as well as Bradford. The inability to get big plays out of those types of routes, and Clemens’ inability to drive the ball downfield to take advantage of Givens’ blazing speed combined to severely hamper his productivity in 2013.
When looking at how the injury to Bradford impacted the St. Louis Rams it is hard not to wonder about the roles of these young players. Givens came into 2013 expected to be “The Guy”, and yet as the offense transitioned to a power running offense the person Bradford seemed to target the most was actually Brian Quick.
Quick received a total of 6 targets in the game against the Carolina Panthers while Givens was targeted just twice. Is it possible the Rams were in the process of establishing new roles for the wide receivers? Was Quick finally being viewed as the top receiving threat, with Givens transitioning into more of a role player within the offense?
That is an awfully big conclusion to jump to, but Brian Quick had shown flashes of brilliance in 2013 while Chris Givens would likely be best suited as the deep threat role player anyway.
When I sat down to write this article I was convinced I would reach the conclusion that Givens was one of, if not the player most impacted by Bradford’s injury. Instead I am wondering if the development of the other young players around him didn’t have as much or a larger impact on Givens’ production.
Of course just like I said at the end of the Quick article I firmly believe the Rams receivers all would have better numbers with Bradford under center all season. Now I have my fingers crossed there is some merit to the idea Quick is on the verge of a breakout, ready to stake his claim to the #1 receiver role for the Rams and allow the other players to all grow into their respective roles. Thanks for reading and as always Go Rams!!!!