- Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
The St. Louis Rams have made it a priority to draft a talented crop of young receivers to give Sam Bradford the help he was in desperate need of. Now with Bradford injured it is up to Kellen Clemens to operate the offense and help those young receivers grow. The first player to provide any type of deep threat was the speedy Chris Givens that blew the top off of defenses last season. After being drafted in the 4th round at 96th overall, Givens was still raw in his route running, but provided the Rams with a promising talent that could be used downfield.
Givens wasn’t targeted at all for the first few weeks of last season. That would quickly change after he brought in a 52 yard catch against the Arizona Cardinals in week 3. He would go onto hold the rookie record with five consecutive games with 50+ yard catches. The 2012 season saw him lead all Rams’ receivers with 698 yards on 42 catches from 81 targets. Givens was able to haul in 52% of his targets last year that included a lot of passes that stretched the field and the occasional screen play. That is not a bad rate for a player that was being used mostly to get over the top of defenders. Bradford was willing and able to hit him for the home runs last year, but this season they were just off on those deep threats.
It seemed like Bradford didn’t want to throw the ball downfield early this season. Instead he was opting for the shorter routes to Tavon Austin in an attempt to not turn the ball over and get rid of it quick while constantly facing pressure behind a line that wasn’t protecting him. Once Zac Stacy emerged as the savior of the Rams’ running game Bradford was looking to stretch the field a bit more, but was still just missing Givens on those long passes.
If you just take a glance at Chris Givens’ season stats and compare them to last year, they look almost the same. He has been able to bring in 28 catches on 57 targets (49%) this year through 10 games. He is on pace to catch more passes this season for about the same amount of yards, but his season long is 47 yards. He has failed to bring in a single pass over 50 yards partially due to the unwillingness of the Rams offense to throw down field. His average yards-per-catch is reflected the same from this year to last year at 16.6.
The numbers are basically the same for Givens, but they aren’t a true sign of what he has been able to do in year two of his four year rookie deal. If St. Louis expects him to be their number one outside threat they are going to need him to use his number one tool, speed. The expanded route tree that he now runs should be able to free him up for the occasional home run because defenses can’t expect him to just be a simple home run threat on each play. Instead, opposing teams have to respect his ability to run all routes in the offense. The chemistry between Clemens and Givens should be building up for that knockout blow sooner rather than later and Clemens has shown the willingness to test defenses downfield so it is just a matter of time before Givens can walk into the end zone for the first time this season.