Second-year tight end Lance Kendricks can use the 2012 season to become a feature of the St. Louis Rams' pass offense. Inconsistent as a pass-catcher during his rookie season, Kendricks still has the potential to become Sam Bradford's favourite target.
With Brian Schottenheimer installed as the new offensive coordinator, the Rams can finally get back to calling a system more suited to the players at their disposal. That means a heavy dose of Steven Jackson, relying on sure-handed possession receivers underneath and featuring the tight end.
Schottenheimer made great use of Dustin Keller during his tenure with the New York Jets. In four seasons under Schottenheimer, Keller never failed to exceed 45 receptions, 500 receiving yards and an 11-yards-per-catch average.
He scored 15 touchdowns in that period and was used on a variety of patterns, excelling not only in the intermediate range, but also showcasing some downfield potential. Kendricks has the versatile skill set to do the same.
The 6'3", 247-pounder posted an above average 12.6 yards per reception in 2011. He has the athleticism to go up and get the ball and make yards after the catch. In a Week 6 meeting against the Green Bay Packers, Kendricks displayed his big-play capability, turning a short pass into a 45-yard score.
In the preseason, he combined with Bradford for a 44-yard touchdown, off a perfectly executed play-action against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Deceptively quick and possessing excellent strength, Kendricks has the ability to be a major threat as a receiver.
His blocking prowess should not deter the Rams from getting more use out of him as a pass-catcher. Schottenheimer can use the blocking ability as a decoy on some delayed release play-action passes.
Kendricks would also be a useful outlet on middle screens, going in motion prior to the snap, before releasing through the line.
With Danny Armendola and new signing Steve Smith running slants and crossing patterns, Kendricks should find plenty of gaps in coverage and can be used to challenge defenses in a variety of ways.