St. Louis Rams fans were enthralled by the team’s attempts to surround Sam Bradford with playmakers over the last two years by taking receivers early in the draft and picking up TE Jared Cook this past offseason.
The result of these big moves were fans and media members alike proclaiming that the team was finally set up to make a serious run at the NFC West, albeit as a dark horse behind the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. I bought into all of the hype surrounding WR Tavon Austin as a diverse playmaker that would help change things in St. Louis.
Little did we all know that the changes made wouldn’t correct the drops from years past.
While Bradford has enjoyed a successful season statistically, the Rams are still missing out in the column that matters most: wins. Sitting at 2-3 in what is probably the toughest division in football is not a good place to be. The Rams are boasting the league’s worst drop percentage at 14 percent.
In an offense that focuses on short passes, catching the ball is kind of a big deal. In order to gain yards after the catch, the receiver has to in fact catch the ball first. St. Louis has experienced 18 drops as a team and one of the smallest yards-after-the-catch averages in the league.
Yes, the team that was built for Bradford is failing in the area he needs them the most. Part of this could be that teams have been able to focus on the passing game due to the Rams’ lack of a running game. The Rams have not been able to connect on any deep passing plays since Week 1 when TE Jared Cook was a real threat.
Against Dallas and San Francisco, Bradford saw Cook, Austin, Austin Pettis, Darryl Richardson and Brian Quick drop at least one pass each. Both of these games were blowouts where the offense could not get going at all and the team looked unprepared as a whole.
Austin has been the biggest culprit, dropping seven passes this year for a drop percentage of 17.50. Austin holds the most drops in the league at the moment. He also has 23 catches on 40 targets. For a slot receiver that is supposed to make big plays, this is detrimental to the offense that needs him to move the chains.
I would suspect that his 5-6 yards are not allowing him to gain the separation needed to make clean catches and make the big plays that were promised when he was drafted eighth overall. It seems like there is always a defender on his back during each catch.
Richardson has three drops this year to go with 11 catches on 15 targets. Catching the ball out of the backfield is not the easiest thing to do when a linebacker is gunning right at you on most catches. His drop percentage at 20 percent isn’t the worst in the league for running backs, but it isn’t the best either.
Cook was a part of the Rams spending to get Bradford a poor man’s Jimmy Graham. Cook only has two drops on the season to go with 20 catches on 35 targets. His 5.7 drop percentage is pretty good compared to most TEs that are a focal point of an offense. Quick is still trying to find consistent time, making six catches on 12 targets. His two drops are pretty low, but considering he has only been targeted 12 times, that’s not a good number to see.
In order to maximize the offense’s potential, the Rams’ receivers are going to have to make more catches for Bradford when he hits them. Drops are going to happen throughout a season, but leading the league is not a good place to be when a team is trying to prove itself among its peers.
Some of the issues may have to do with getting separation from defenders, but at the end of the day a drop is a catch that should have been made. Each play counts, whether it is in the first or fourth quarter. Bradford’s receivers need to focus more on catching the ball. As Pettis has proved of late, if you catch it, he will throw it your way.