Last year the St. Louis Rams found themselves with no fewer than five youngish, occasionally interesting wide receivers to sort out. The 2011 NFL Draft has resulted in... even more youngish, occasionally interesting wide receivers to sort out. This is the situation in which Greg Salas and Austin Pettis—not to mention Lance Kendricks—find themselves. Guys, I'd like you to meet Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Laurent Robinson (he's on his way out, don't mind him too much), Danario Alexander—no, Danario, don't get up, please—and Donnie Avery. Oh, and Mardy Gilyard. I always forget that guy.
Danny Amendola is that guy over there who looks really excited to meet you. Don't take it personally, he looks really excited about everything. He's what Tony La Russa calls gritty, which is code for short and white, and he'll catch whatever you throw at him. The problem is where he is where he catches it. He led the team in receptions, with 85, but he averaged fewer than 10 yards for every one—fewer yards per reception than Daniel Fells and Steven Jackson.
He could be Wes Welker in a better offense, but in general the less Bradford has to target him, the better. If he every catches 10 balls in a game you guys have done something wrong.
Brandon Gibson looks really great sometimes! He caught seven balls for 93 yards in his first game with the Rams and he's been disappointing fans on and off ever since. His catch rate won't impress you, but he never seems terrible at any one thing. He's not exciting, but don't get too cocky—he's only a year older than you guys. It's not a long way from NFL Draft stardom to near-irrelevance.
Laurent Robinson was just leaving. One of the lowest-ranked wide receivers in football, he caught less than half the balls thrown his way in 2010—and that's from Sam Bradford, and given the Pat Shurmur offense not from very far away.
We tried to send him a hint the other day—we tossed him the keys and said lock the door behind you—but he couldn't quite hold on to them. Once upon a time he had a lot of potential, but a number of injuries and his general inability to catch football-shaped objects means it's unlikely he returns to the roster.
Mark Clayton isn't allowed to be here right now, because of the NFL Lockout's lockdown on free agency, but that guy who looks a lot like Mark Clayton with Groucho glasses on has been working out with us for a few weeks now. He—that is, Mark Clayton, not this guy who looks a lot like him and is really a similar player, like, strikingly so—was off to a nice start as Sam Bradford's security blanket before he got hurt, and his two touchdowns in five games were still tied for second in TD receptions at the end of the year.
He's been around forever but he's just 29, and he was coming off some unimpressive seasons in Baltimore, so he's as hard to figure as anybody else on the team.
Danario Alexander is inside that hyperbaric chamber, but he can hear you if you yell loudly enough. When he was halthy he was outstanding—he averaged 15.3 yards per catch—but he was never healthy. His left knee is a ticking time bomb, and by that I mean there's literally a ticking time bomb inside his left knee. There've been five surgical attempts to extract it, but each time it gets wedged deeper in there.
When he plays, he's Bradford's most dangerous target. Expect it five to eight times.
Mardy Gilyard is—has anybody seen Mardy Gilyard? He was just here like five months ago, and I hadn't checked since but I just assumed—Mardy has great speed and is supposedly really dangerous in the open field, not that we actually saw that last year. He didn't learn the playbook last year, but there's a new one this year, so who knows. I swear he was just standing over here, not doing anything, not more than a year ago! I don't know where I left him.
Finally, we come to Donnie Avery—the Rams' last big investment at the position, and Bradford's presumptive only-useful-receiver before the start of last season. He's a burner who could be exactly the deep threat Sam Bradford and Josh McDaniels are looking for, but he's been unable to stay healthy and doesn't catch the ball quite as often as you'd like.
He and Mark Clayton have a lot in common, including missing most of the season with knee injuries. It'll be interesting how Avery and his outside-replacement will fit together—should we end up signing Clayton again, of course. Don't report us to the lockout police, okay?
Austin Pettis and Greg Salas, here's how you two can make a difference: Catch the ball. Do it consistently, and do it at least 10 yards away from the line of scrimmage. The Rams' deep threats—not even deep threats, just their not-shallow threats—in 2010 were either injured all the time, dropping passes all the time, or just not around all the time. When it comes time to run the red zone offense, be in the end zone, be ready to catch the ball.
Rams fans aren't asking for Pro Bowl performance from either of you, but if one of you could be adequate—well, that would be great.
Yes, it would be great. What are you even doing over there, Laurent?