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A Strong St. Louis Rams Passing Attack is Key to 2011 Playoff Run

 
 
 

Despite leading the St. Louis Rams' most prolific offense, since the days of Kurt Warner, quarterback Sam Bradford finished dead last in the league of deep passes thrown.

Bradford—the 2010 NFL Rookie of the Year on Offense—took every snap during his rookie campaign, dropping back 590 times with only 40 balls traveling further than 20 yards downfield. The lack of a deep attack was no fault of Bradford's though; before Week 5 hit he had lost his top two wide receivers, Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton, and his top tight end, Michael Hoomanawanui to long-term injuries.

Receivers Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, halfback Steven Jackson, and tight end Daniel Fells ended up being Bradford's main targets, and only Amendola had more than 53 catches.

The injuries made it very simple for opposing defensive coordinators to game plan each week, because all they had to do was clog the first 20 yards. This was done all season, just daring the rookie to look downfield, but because he was left with very little talent to work with, the offense was simplified, keeping it as low-risk as possible.

As a result, Bradford ranked 30th in the league with an average of 5.95 yards per pass, otherwise known as a "snail's pace."

Once the season ended, and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur bolted for the Browns head coaching position, general manager Billy Devaney brought former Patriots offensive guru Josh McDaniels in to fill the void.

Even though McDaniels fell flat on his face during his first head coaching gig in Denver, resulting in his termination toward the end of last season, he brings with him a wealth of knowledge in developing young quarterbacks, see Tom Brady and Matt Cassel for examples.

With McDaniels, comes a pass-heavy offensive system that contains a lot more risk than Bradford and the Rams are used to. Learning from the team's failure to have a balanced passing attack last season, Devaney sought help—via the 2011 NFL Draft—in the form of tight end Lance Kendricks, and receivers Austin Pettis and Greg Salas.

The addition of Kendricks gives Bradford an agile, better than average pass-catching tight end, who can act as a safety net if all else fails. As for Pettis and Salas, they are hardly game-breaking threats at this stage of their careers, but both possess great hands, much-needed size, and exceptional route-running ability. And with both Avery and Amendola returning, and Clayton interested in re-signing, training camp should provide for a very healthy competition.

All that is missing now, is the deep threat wide receiver Bradford so desperately needs in order to take the next step in his progression as a quarterback. And there are more than a few options for the Rams to consider.

Soon-to-be former New York Penitentiary resident, Plaxico Burress, is one option I've been touting since last season. His great size and big-game experience could make an immediate impact on and off the field for a youthful receiving corp.

Burress will turn 34 by the time the season starts and hasn't played a down since the 2008 Super Bowl. Taking into account his ties to Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo—from his days with the Giants—I see St. Louis being a "safe" place for someone that will most certainly need stability following a multi-year prison term.

I do not really see Burress being offered anything longer than a one-year deal because of the risk he carries. Regardless of the risk, he has not played professional football in three years and could still have gas left in the tank, giving the Rams a receiver who has won the biggest game of all.

If Burress does not fit the mold of what the Rams are looking for, Vikings wideout Sidney Rice showed No. 1 wideout potential in Minnesota with Brett Favre running the offense. He will not come cheaply though, because Rice is a restricted free agent, any team that wants to sign him will have to fork over a first round draft pick to the Vikings in exchange.

Combining Bradford with a receiver like Burress or Rice would be tempting, no question about it. The Rams would be able to stretch the field beyond the safeties, opening holes for Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson, and actually make the opposing defense believe that a deep pass is always an option—because it should be.

 

 

 

 


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Jan 30 2012 3:57PM GMT

BANKS: Our mock draft begins with Luck, trade for Griffin
SI.com Jan 30 2012 3:57PM GMT wonderful world it will be in St. Louis at the start of the team's Jeff Fisher era. Sam Bradford and Blackmon were former rivals in Oklahoma, but I bet the Rams quarterback will make the rookie his new best friend. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Morris Claiborne,

Mock Draft 2.0 [SFI]
49ers Paradise Jan 30 2012 3:09PM GMT fine choice if Kalil is gone. 4. St. Louis Rams (From Cleveland)- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State Sam Bradford desperately needs a legitimate target and Blackmon has the potential to make an immediate impact. Other options? The Rams could stay at #2

Mock Draft 2.0
Scout.com Jan 30 2012 3:03PM GMT fine choice if Kalil is gone. 4. St. Louis Rams (From Cleveland)- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State Sam Bradford desperately needs a legitimate target and Blackmon has the potential to make an immediate impact. Other options? The Rams could stay at #2

Senior Bowl Week mock draft [FOX]
49ers Paradise Jan 29 2012 3:37PM GMT for a quarterback-starved team ? think Miami or Washington ? but I?m not so certain they do. Sam Bradford needs a No. 1 target to grow old with. Blackmon?s compared to everyone from Dez Bryant to Terrell Owens. He?s that good. St. Louis hasn't

Holler: RG3 holds the key
PackerReport.com Jan 29 2012 2:22PM GMT are in an even leakier boat, since they used the No. 1 overall pick two years ago on Sam Bradford and were one win away from making the first pick in this year?s draft. A case could be made that the Rams could take Blackmon. They need a

Mock draft begins with Luck, trade for Griffin
SI.com Jan 29 2012 7:58AM GMT wonderful world it will be in St. Louis at the start of the team's Jeff Fisher era. Sam Bradford and Blackmon were former rivals in Oklahoma, but I bet the Rams quarterback will make the rookie his new best friend. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Morris Claiborne,

Related: Miklasz: Jocketty calls Cards favorites in division
Pantagraph.com Jan 29 2012 12:56AM GMT choice in hiring Brian Schottenheimer as offensive coordinator. "I think it will be a good fit for (quarterback) Sam Bradford. He'll be challenged as a quarterback." Strengths? "Brian is really detailed," Pennington said. "He helped me increase my

Blake Griffin & Sam Bradford: How Northwest Expressway in Oklahoma City became the route to Rookie of the Year
NewsOK.com Jan 28 2012 11:20PM GMT The drive is less than 15 minutes even with bad traffic. That's how close Blake Griffin and Sam Bradford lived growing up on the northwest side of Oklahoma City. Unbelievable, isn't it? For a little while longer, these two are the reigning rookies of the

Miklasz: Jocketty calls Cards favorites in division
Pantagraph.com Jan 28 2012 10:41PM GMT choice in hiring Brian Schottenheimer as offensive coordinator. "I think it will be a good fit for (quarterback) Sam Bradford. He'll be challenged as a quarterback." Strengths? "Brian is really detailed," Pennington said. "He helped me increase my

  
 
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