Currently, with a wealth of talent at the wide receiver position on the roster, the St Louis Rams are likely to have some tough decisions to make. It is well known that no Rams receiver has reached the 1,000-yard mark since 2007. Austin Pettis has yet to reach that figure in three seasons, with total career catching yardage of 916. With the introduction of Tavon Austin in 2013, Pettis’ duties as a punt returner also took a big hit, going from a combined 26 in his first two seasons to just 2 in the last campaign. Does this mean the former Boise State man has his head on the block when it comes to making the final roster? Not necessarily.
Austin Pettis does have a knack of offering vital support to Sam Bradford. Through the first six weeks of the 2013 season, Pettis averaged 10.2 yards per catch – comfortably exceeding Bradford’s overall average of 6.3 yards per catch over the same period. This would seemingly indicate that when Bradford does opt for the ‘deeper than usual’ passes, he is more comfortable doing so to Pettis. Pettis did not score a touchdown after Kellen Clemens took over. Of Pettis’ four touchdowns in 2013, three (versus Atlanta, Dallas and Jacksonville) were from 3rd or 4th down and goal-to-go plays – this further emphasises the fact that Bradford likes going to Pettis when the chips are down, often to good effect. With Bradford likely be under intense scrutiny returning from the ACL injury, seeing his go-to guy on the end of the line of scrimmage can’t be a bad thing.
Clearly, Pettis is never going to be the number one type of receiver that’s going to tally 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns per year. Drafted in the middle third of round three by the Rams in 2011, he was the 8th receiver taken in that class – and indeed the second by the Rams, if you count Lance Kendricks who was taken at tight end in round two. Pettis is a situational, possession receiver, who can come in and do a job when required. He is never going to set the NFL on fire, but is generally solid and has shown an affinity for making important gains in high pressure 3rd down situations – which arise with painful regularity under Brian Schottenheimer’s offensive regime. My thoughts are that Pettis’ chances of staying with the Rams are likely to depend on how Jeff Fisher and the coaching staff view his overall numbers and contribution compared to his situational value.
Johnathan Webb reported on the Rams official site this week that that Kenny Britt “looked every bit like the talent he displayed in 2009-10”. Indications are already that the former Tennessee man has fit in well, and will play a big role in 2014. Stedman Bailey will unquestionably be feature once his suspension has elapsed, and there is also no doubt that both Tavon Austin and Brian Quick will making the final 53-man roster barring injury. For Pettis, this means the spaces look to be running out fast. Will he with Rams when week one kicks off? Time will tell.