The St. Louis Rams undoubtedly lacked a true No. 1 wide receiver in 2013, and heading into the 2014 campaign, St. Louis is in a very similar position with it’s receiving corps. In 2013 they relied heavily on tight end Jared Cook in the passing game, who led the team in most statistical receiving categories except for average yards per reception.
The Rams relied most on second-year WR Chris Givens as their deep threat in 2013, and Givens mainly came through when called on despite a tumultuous offensive campaign for the blue and gold.
The Rams drafted Givens in the fourth round of the NFL draft (96th overall) in 2012 out of Wake Forest. Despite the roller coaster ride during his rookie season, Givens caught 42 passes for 698 yards and three touchdowns. Givens would also set a rookie receiving record for most consecutive games with a 50-plus yard reception (five) and it appeared the Rams had found a prototypical deep threat for years to come as a steal in the fourth round.
The 2013 season started off great for Givens, as he caught five passes for 105 yards in week two against the Atlanta Falcons. It was evident he and quarterback Sam Bradford were continually growing more comfortable with each other, but the duo was unable to replicate similar production through the Rams first seven games prior Bradfords injury; as Givens’ second best performance was against the Dallas Cowboys the following week, when he had two catches for 54 yards.
Givens put up similar statistics over the nine games he played with Kellen Clemens under center, but did have two games where he did not catch a single ball. He finished the season as a middle-of-the-road WR, although he was only targeted 83 times which was tied for 69th overall with his teammate — the aforementioned Cook — who also was targeted just 83 times.
Givens finished 78th in yards with 569 which is serviceable, but did not score a single touchdown. However, a trend that perhaps has been overlooked by some and is a great sign, is that Givens finished the season with 16.7 yards per reception, which was tied for sixth overall in the NFL with Terrance Williams of Dallas. Plain and simple, Givens excelled in the role that he was asked to play.
So, it seems Givens should perhaps be targeted more often, right? Right. In a recent article about Jared Cook, I reference Offensive Coordinator Brain Schottenheimer’s need to open up the passing game a bit more. While I understand being apprehensive about letting Clemens gun-sling after Bradford’s injury, the team has good running game that will command attention in 2014, and there has to be more of an emphasis put on exploiting opposing defense who cheat a bit to stop the run.
The statistics suggest Schottenheimer has the pieces in place to do so — now it must be implemented.
Givens heads into 2014 training camp with the possibility of starting, however, the more likely scenario to anticipate is Givens will be a situational receiver behind Kenny Britt on the depth chart.
The Rams running game was already solid with Zac Stacy, and the addition of rookie Tre Mason could make for one of the most formidable in the game.That being said, look for the Rams to incorporate more play action into their passing game, which will give Givens plenty of opportunities for one-on-one coverage in the secondary and lead to more targets and successful plays deep. If used correctly, Givens should have his breakout season.