One could easily blame the St. Louis Rams as a franchise for their trouble to find a proven threat at wide receiver this season after allowing both Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson to leave via free agency last offseason. Given their tenuous salary cap situation both then and now, however, that would be an illogical stance to take.
St. Louis was banking on youngsters to break out this year and provide the production needed in the passing game to make the receiving corps dangerous. With Austin Pettis as the senior member of the group at just 25 years of age, clearly there are still loads of potential waiting to be tapped into for the Rams.
Rookies Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey have each made their own unique impacts on the team. Austin’s game-breaking abilities have shown up on big plays, but the consistency just hasn’t been there for the No. 8 overall pick from last April. Bailey has made more of an impact on special teams than anywhere else as a gunner, but that doesn’t really show up on the stat sheet as a big accomplishment.
Another concerning area is with the second-year players the Rams were looking for to come into their own this season. Chris Givens had a huge year last season as a rookie with 42 catches for 698 yards and three touchdowns. He provided a big-play ability and really stretched the field offensively. Whether the absence of quarterback Sam Bradford has weighed down his performance or not is unknown, but what is obvious is that Givens hasn’t progressed the way the team would have liked in 2013. His 34 grabs for 569 yards are close to his numbers from last season, but the fact that he has yet to reach the end zone is a big red flag.
Stagnant production appears to be the theme for the second-year receivers in St. Louis with former second rounder Brian Quick still stuck in neutral when it comes to progressing up the depth chart. He showed growing pains last year coming out of a smaller school in Appalachian State, but this season has been more of the same from Quick as well – and that is not a good thing. His 18 catches for 302 yards and two touchdowns are alright until you consider that he was selected at the top of the second round last year and has made very little to no progress with the team.
Now clearly Kellen Clemens is not Bradford in terms of his ability on the field, but he has proven serviceable and produced on a similar level in terms of numbers. Perhaps that is the biggest red flag of them all with the Rams putting up the same type of statistics even with different pieces in place.
How this team will address these shortcomings during the offseason remains to be seen, but it seems fairly easy to assume that free agency will not be among the avenues they choose. In a cash-strapped position it will be rookie weapons and the development of their current complement of pass catchers that must take the next step for the Rams. Right now it’s a matter of playing the waiting game, and no one likes hearing that given the recent results.