As nice as it would be to see the St. Louis Rams get their newest weapons integrated into the offensive attack for the upcoming season, the fact that one of the few holdovers from last season is off to a hot start is certainly encouraging.
Chris Givens led the team in receiving a year ago as a fourth round rookie out of Wake Forest. His elite deep speed allowed him to torch opposing secondaries in spurts last year, and this season the focus should be on having him gain more consistency as a primary target for quarterback Sam Bradford.
Clearly the two have quite a rapport already given their success from a year ago and their work together throughout the offseason. It certainly showed early as Givens hauled in one of his patented bombs from Bradford on a 59-yard strike over top of the Cleveland Browns secondary. Head coach Jeff Fisher is excited about his breakout potential this coming season as he told Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
“He’s clearly picked up where he left off last year. Obviously, he showed the other night (in Cleveland) that he can get down the field and make the big play.”
Those deep plays were Givens’ trademark in year one with the Rams, but he needs to develop a more diverse repertoire of skills to truly excel as a top notch NFL receiver. His three-yard touchdown catch over the middle of the field showed that perhaps he is expanding his abilities as a pass catcher after all. Receivers coach Ray Sherman spoke to that possibility saying:
“We know he can go deep, but what we needed to work on is the intermediate stuff. Because people already know that he can run, but now we also want to be able to use his speed in those intermediate routes.”
While it’s obviously great to have a player capable of taking the top off of the defense on a regular basis, it’s also nice to have the flexibility to use him in different areas of the field. Clearly the presence of new guys like Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, and Stedman Bailey will take care of those portions of the route tree, but Givens believes that each guy in the receiving corps can help one another. He said:
“That’s exactly why we brought those guys in. We’re all weapons, and we’re all good at what we do. So the better they play, the better I’m gonna play and vice versa. We’re out here to push each other and to work towards our common goal — and that’s to win.”
That type of complementary attitude is exactly the way the Rams need to utilize their offensive weaponry this coming season. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer needs to design plays that will warrant defenses to roll coverages one way or another and free up one of his targets in one-on-one coverage.
While Givens has been the forgotten man much of this preseason with the fanfare of the team’s newest additions and the retooled offense, he may be the player most poised to have an enormous year numbers-wise. Look for his second season to be a significant improvement over his rookie campaign with the wideout working the intermediate areas of the field as well as the deep routes to make an even wider reaching impact. That could easily lead to a breakout year for Givens as defenses focus on the newer Rams weapons during the course of the season.