The Rams issues at wide receiver in 2010 were glaring before they even had a single regular season snap. It did not get any better as the season went along. By the end of the season one could make the case that the positional issues were the reason this team didn’t make the playoffs. All of that set up this off-season and the focus on how were the Rams going to get more receiving weapons for Sam Bradford? The answer while not fully answered certainly is becoming much more clear. The Rams drafted a tight end in the second round and more specifically two wide receivers in the 3rd and 4th rounds that were highly productive in college. Assuming that the Rams will bring back Mark Clayton and there are no more free agent additions does this mean that Austin Pettis and Greg Salas will fix what ailed the Rams in 2010?
Most were encouraged that the Rams selected wide receivers in the Draft, but I also believe that most wanted the Rams to be picking elite wide receivers instead of the second or third tier variety that most Draft “experts” had the Rams wide receiver selections. Austin Pettis, out of Boise State, surprised many by being selected in the third round. When you go back and look at his production though you can at least see what the Rams see in Pettis. The Boise State wide receiver had 39 touchdowns and 229 receptions in his college career. He is not the fastest or the biggest, but clearly he knows how to play and more importantly for the Rams knows how to make catches in the end zone.
When you dig deeper into Pettis’ stats at Boise State the numbers become even more encouraging. In the biggest games of the season Pettis played bigger. Against Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl Pettis had 12 receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown. Against Virginia Tech on opening night Pettis had 6 receptions for 73 yards and 2 touchdowns. Against Oregon State he had 4 receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown. It means that he wasn’t just piling up these numbers against the lesser WAC teams but was piling them up against the better competition.
When you consider that Sam Bradford had a total of 18 touchdowns passes for the entire season you realize that the Rams need someone on their roster who can make room for themselves in the end zone. Pettis can do that and makes some sense for the Rams.
The other selection, Greg Salas out of Hawaii, also had great production in college. In fact his numbers are even gaudier than Pettis’ were at Boise State. In 2009 Salas had 106 catches for 1,590 yards and 8 touchdowns. In 2010 he had 119 receptions for 1,889 yards and 14 touchdowns. I know that most of us don’t get to see a lot of Hawaii football, but when you put out that kind of production at any level there is certainly something there from a talent standpoint.
Again Salas was not just putting up these numbers against the worst opponents in the WAC. He was putting up these numbers against some of the best schools in the country. Against USC Salas had 8 receptions for 124 yards. Against Nevada he had 11 receptions for 153 yards. Against Colorado he had 9 catches for 94 yards. In fact the only game he didn’t have a huge outing in 2010 was against Boise State where he only had 2 catches. Salas is another case of production over projection. Both Pettis and Salas produced greatly in college and the Rams believe that they both can make an impact right away.
The selections now lead to the obvious question of how will they fit in and how will the roster look. Obviously it will be a very wide-open wide receiver competition at Training Camp, whenever that may be. Looking at the Depth Chart, and assuming that Clayton returns it should look like this heading into it.
Danny Amendola, Mark Clayton, Donnie Avery, Danario Alexander, Brandon Gibson, Laurent Robinson, Mardy Gilyard, Austin Pettis and Greg Salas.
When you get to the end of camp the reality is that only 6 or 7 of those names will be in a Rams uniform by the time opening day rolls around. What Steve Spagnuolo, Bully Devaney, Sam Bradford and the Rams franchise can’t afford to have happen is for Pettis or Salas to not be ready. They do not have time at this position to have a Mardy Gilyard type of season where he does nothing for the entire rookie season. The Rams have to make some obvious quick decisions. Robinson, Gibson and Gilyard seem clearly to have their backs against the walls.
It would not be shocking though if Avery might be in a little bit of trouble as well. The Rams like him, but if the injuries continue to plague him then it might be time to cut bait. The team has been waiting on Avery to become a number one receiver for three full seasons now. If there are not clear signs that 2011 is going to be the year then it could be time for the team to part ways.
The Rams are in a tough spot because it appears that both Salas and Pettis are both players that have similar styles to receivers already on the roster. Youth is on their side and their NFL resume is blank. Meanwhile guys like Gibson and Robinson both have tons of video to go back and watch against other NFL players. Both Pettis and Salas are walking into the perfect situation to make a big splash and become starters right away. We will find out quickly if they are answers or merely players that bring up more questions, quickly with the Rams.
For more info: Get updates from Rams Park here and instant updates by Twitter here.