One of the ongoing revelations of the first week of training camp has been the play of a certain budding wide receiver tandem.
Third-year Ram Brian Quick and free agent signee Kenny Britt have drawn largely positive reviews for their contributions in practice so far, and have emerged as the top two options for returning quarterback Sam Bradford to this point. It’s no secret that both have struggled in recent years and remain relatively unknown quantities, so what does this mean for the offense going forward?
For starters, the Rams just began practicing in pads yesterday, so keeping perspective is key. While Britt and Quick have seemingly had their way with the young Rams secondary to this point, introducing contact should go further in revealing what the team really has in the combo. However, should they keep producing and wind up the starting receivers Week 1, it’s to the team’s benefit for a handful of reasons.
As I’ve written endlessly over the last couple months, my expectations for the Rams receivers is to act as complimentary pieces to the team’s run-first approach. That likely means yet another season without a 1,000-plus yard receiver. Not due to performance, but rather due to a lack of opportunities as play calls shift heavily in favor of the run. What that means then is that the team will need the starting receivers simply to make the plays that come their way in 2014 without having to rely on them to do much more than that. Britt and Quick will need to use their 6’3 and 6’4 respective frames to out-muscle opposing defensive backs and simply keep the chains moving to spell the running game. Their height gives them the advantage over every defensive back in the NFC West outside of Seattle’s Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in that category. You take what you can get.
While height is generally considered a plus in outside receivers, another aspect of Britt and Quick’s game to watch as camp progresses is simply their ability to catch and possess the ball. It’s the one basic requirement of playing the receiver position, but the Rams unit struggled with consistency in that area. Quick and Britt emerging as the possession receivers the Rams need to complement the running game is a best-case scenario.
This takes some of the heat then off of Chris Givens’ shoulders, as he can then be used as a play-action threat and/or a deep option in the seam. Givens has also led the team in drops in each of his first two seasons, according to Pro Football Focus, which isn’t an ideal stat for a team that will need it’s receivers to make the plays that come their way.
This then frees up Tavon Austin to fully embrace the Swiss army knife role, which the Rams have shown an interest in so far in camp. Austin has been taking reps out of the backfield as well as lining up in the slot, adding a hint of mystery to the elusiveness that makes him so dangerous. Opposing defenses will have to press the possession game of Britt and Quick and respect the speed of Givens while keeping eyes on Austin wherever he’s lined up. But again, all of this is a best-case scenario.
At the very least, Britt’s presence alone seems to have aided Quick’s development a bit. Quick looks to be benefiting from the tutelage of the similar-bodied Britt in regards to how to use that size effectively, which is something he hasn’t had in the past. Seeing these two become effective starting receivers is one of many items from the Rams 2014 wish list, but having it actually come to fruition before our eyes has still been surprising. Keep an eye on these two as padded practice gets fully underway.