A poll of St. Louis Rams fans this past offseason asking what they believed to be the team’s biggest need would likely have produced a near-universal response: wide receiver.
Among the Rams’ 2011 woes was the fact that no receiver stepped forward to establish himself as QB Sam Bradford’s go-to guy. Safety blanket Danny Amendola missed the majority of the season with an elbow injury. TE Lance Kendricks fell into an early hole and never got on the same page with Bradford. And the closest thing the Rams had to a premier receiver, WR Brandon Lloyd, left via free agency after the season.
The situation was tenuous enough that many Rams fans called for the team to select Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon in the first round of April’s NFL Draft. The Rams instead drafted DT Michael Brockers in the first round, opting to double down on the receiver position later when they selected Appalachian State’s Brian Quick and Wake Forest’s Chris Givens. In free agency, the team signed Steve Smith to augment the position.
Still, questions remained. How good is this group? And if Bradford gets them the ball, can they catch it?
Through two games, the Rams still have a receiver problem. It’s just not the one many anticipated.
“It’s hard to get everybody snaps,” head coach Jeff Fisher said. “But those that are on the field are consistently catching the ball, which is important. And they’re getting open.”
Through two games, Bradford has completed nearly 72 percent of his passes. A big part of that is a receiving corps that has consistently been able to find space and hold onto the football. Both Smith and Kendricks have four catches apiece. Holdover Brandon Gibson leads the team with two touchdown catches and is second on the team with six catches.
But the real difference-maker has been Amendola. After catching five passes in week one, Amendola exploded for 15 catches and 160 yards last Sunday against the Redskins. He and Bradford picked up right where they left off in 2010, when Amendola made 85 catches to lead the team.
“It is an honor to play with guys like that,” TE Matthew Mulligan said. “A lot of people maybe necessarily didn’t know about him, but they will now. Danny, in my personal opinion, runs the best routes that I’ve ever seen. He’s just so quick, and he’s precise, and he’s always where he’s supposed to be.”
Playing time is about to be at an even higher premium with the return of WR Austin Pettis. Pettis was suspended four games near the end of last year for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy. Adding the second-year receiver to the group just stands to strengthen the unexpectedly productive group.
“We have a very competitive receiver room,” Pettis said. “Everyone has their different set of abilities that they’re able to bring to this team.”
This kind of problem is one the Rams will gladly deal with.
Nathan Grimm is a Rams correspondent for KMOX.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Nate_Grimm.