Chris Givens Will Give St. Louis Rams the Deep Threat They're Missing

Jamal CollierAnalyst IIIAugust 17, 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 12: Chris Givens #13 of the St. Louis Rams makes a catch during rookie mini camp at the ContinuityX Training Center on May 12, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Chris Givens can provide the Rams with the deep threat they were sorely lacking throughout the 2011 season.

Brandon Gibson was St. Louis’ first downfield option entering last season, as evidenced by the first play against the Titans in Week 2 of the preseason last year.

The Rams had seven points on the board almost before I could find my seat. (Yes, you can arrive late to a Rams game. Especially in the preseason.)

A similar play-action attempt was thrown in Week 1 against the Eagles, which drew a defensive pass interference call on prized free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

I don’t recall another deep shot taken like that all season. There were several reasons for this, one was the Rams' injury issues.

Some may remember Brandon Lloyd’s presence as the singular legitimate downfield threat in Josh McDaniels’ offense, despite the fact that he only played five games with then-sophomore QB Sam Bradford under center.

Lloyd amassed 24 receptions for 351 yards and three touchdowns in those games, accounting for all of Bradford’s touchdown passes in that span.

Chris Givens is not the same type of receiver as Lloyd. Lloyd is a technician. Givens is a burner.

The issue with having a burner recognized as a legitimate deep threat is that for the speedster to have a chance to get open, the offensive line has to provide a sufficient measure of protection for the quarterback.

That was hard to do with all of the injuries the Rams faced on their offensive line.

St. Louis also had a dearth of healthy receivers on a team that already had a questionable receiving corps in terms of dynamic NFL talent.

This year, there is a wave of new faces at the receiver and offensive line positions.

Assuming this next collection of talent meshes together as they should, there is one thing the offense must do for Givens to make the impact he is capable of making: sling the ball deep.

Chris Givens will be an invaluable asset to St. Louis if he can consistently take the top off an NFL defense. He would make defenses respect the deep ball, opening up underneath routes as well as running lanes for Steven Jackson.

The Rams have only converted 105 passes for 20 or more yards in the last three years. By comparison, the Patriots covered that much ground on pass plays 72 times in 2011 alone.

Since 2009, St. Louis has nine pass plays of 40 yards or more. The Giants had 18 such plays in 2011.

St. Louis ranked 30th or worse in passing yards per attempt for the past three years.

That’s probably due in part to the Rams’ largely unimpressive 57 percent completion rate over that span.

Likely as a result, word around the Rams’ training camp is that new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is instructing Bradford to get rid of the ball more quickly. The plan is to incorporate more short routes this season than McDaniels’ passing game contained in 2011.

I support that notion as well. The chains have to be moved, but actions speak louder than words.

St. Louis targeted Givens with three deep passes in its first preseason game against the Colts, drawing one 54-yard pass interference call and no completions.

But neither passer involved in any of those plays was named Sam Bradford. Bradford could surely benefit from the presence of a sprinter like Givens on the outside.

He was behind the defense each time, waiting to make a play.