As if Brian Quick needed more heat on him in 2014.
With OTAs starting to wrap up, the third-year wide receiver is entering a pivotal year in his career. Once pegged as “the next Terrell Owens,” Quick’s perceived raw talent hasn’t yet translated into the level of on-field production expected of a 33rd overall pick. However, during his media availability yesterday, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was very clear about the progress Quick is making.
Schottenheimer: "Brian Quick is the most improved player I've seen … He can and will make big plays for us." #RamsOTAs
— St. Louis Rams (@STLouisRams) June 17, 2014
The quote was quick to make the rounds on social media given the waiting game both the team and fans have had to play in regards to Quick’s development. It begs the question: With fewer than 30 total receptions to his name after two seasons in the league, what type of year can we deem “successful” in the ongoing saga of Brian Quick? First, for context’s sake, some review.
Going into the 2012 draft, head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead were enamored by the explosion Quick flashed during a private workout held at Quick’s alma mater, Appalachian State. Despite his relative inexperience (Quick is a former basketball player turned wide receiver and didn’t begin playing football until his final year of high school), Fisher and Snead had seen enough. They were going to get a receiver early in the draft, but they would hope Quick remained available in the second round.
After the famous Robert Griffin III deal had the team sitting at sixth overall, they opted to continue trading back after Jacksonville traded ahead of them to get Oklahoma State standout Justin Blackmon. The team swapped the sixth pick with the Cowboys for picks 14 and 45 overall, the first of which they used on defensive tackle Michael Brockers. They’d endure some uncomfortable moments while other teams took receivers throughout the remainder of the first round, but ultimately they would get their guy. This 2012 post-draft piece on Quick’s selection by Michael Silver delves much further into detail on the process.
Quick then came into the league as a relatively unknown prospect who surprised more than a few with his selection at the top of the second round. He was labeled right off the bat as a no. 1 receiver to-be, with the T.O. comparisons adding a fair share of hype. He’d have to earn his way on the field given the presence of incumbent receivers Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola, rookie deep ball specialist Chris Givens, and (to a lesser extent) offseason addition Steve Smith. Call it his inexperience or a learning curve or rookie nerves, but however you want to spin it, Quick’s career didn’t get off to the start many had hoped for.
He’d finish his first season with just 11 receptions, the least among the unit, for 156 yards. There were bright spots, though. He’d score his first NFL touchdown on a 36-yard reception in that famous 24-24 Week 10 tie with the 49ers that would give the Rams an early lead. Then he’d grab a second later in the season against the Vikings – an outstretched, falling snare in the corner of the end zone – that embodied everything he was drafted to be. But that was about it.
Quick made some strides in 2013, earning four starts and catching 18 balls for 302 yards and another two touchdowns. However, those numbers don’t really approach the kind that one would expect from a No. 1 receiver. Of the receivers the Rams could have taken with their picks in the first or second round, Quick only has a leg up on A.J. Jenkins, who was drafted by the 49ers but traded to the Chiefs after a no-show rookie year. However, Tennessee’s Kendall Wright, Arizona’s Michael Floyd, and Chicago’s Alshon Jeffery are simply miles ahead of Quick in terms of what they’ve done on the field. This obviously hurts Quick’s image from a “woulda, coulda” standpoint. So, long story long, I’ll ask the question again: Given the two quiet years he’s had to begin his NFL career despite his post-draft hype, what type of 2014 must he have to silence his critics?
I’ll reference Nick Wagoner’s column from yesterday on setting expectations for the receiving corps as a unit over at ESPN.com, which you should go read. The Rams are very clearly developing into a run-heavy team in the mold of the Seahawks and 49ers. Play-action should net them some decent gains from time to time, but I don’t expect the Rams to air it out at a neck-breaking pace in 2014. It’s a very real possibility that the Rams won’t have a 1,000-yard receiver again, simply because they won’t need to in order to have success. However, they will need the receiving corps to step up and complement the running game more than they did last season if the offense is going to function efficiently, and Quick will be asked to be a major part of that.
This isn’t a prediction by any means, but given the offensive system in place, the role he’s expected to fill and the tough schedule that lies ahead, I’d say Quick has to at least crack the 500-yard barrier for the first time to ease some of the pressure that’s been put on him early in his career. And I’ll set the very early bar at five touchdowns. I just don’t think the team will need much more than that from him to be successful, and asking for more out of him is probably unrealistic.
However, If he can do that, expect those numbers to continue to rise each year.