Danny Amendola: How Injury to Rams WR Impacts NFC West Hopes

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIOctober 5, 2012

ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 16:  Danny Amendola #16 of the St. Louis Rams enters the field during player introductions prior to the game against the Washington Redskins at Edward Jones Dome on September 16, 2012 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola flung his helmet into the wall after leaving Thursday night's game, spurring speculation that his injury was rather serious. Regardless of how long he is out of action, Amendola's injury scare changes the entire complexion of the NFC West.

According to a Rams source who spoke with Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, Amendola has a broken collarbone. A report by Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, however, provides some optimism:

Injury by Rams WR Danny Amendola (shoulder/collarbone) not thought to be season-ending.

— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) October 5, 2012

Even if the ailment is not season-threatening, Amendola is clearly Sam Bradford's go-to guy in a receiving corps starved of playmakers. Not to mention, Bradford's time in the pocket hasn't exactly been ample, and Amendola has been able to consistently get separation in the slot and become a reliable possession target.

Amendola has snagged 32 passes for 395 yards in 2012. Brandon Gibson is second on the team in receptions—with only 13. That is the type of production drop-off the Rams' already embattled offense faces in lieu of their most valuable receiver.

This situation leaves St. Louis no choice but to plug in rookies Chris Givens and Brian Quick into the lineup to play more prominent roles.

Givens showed against Arizona that he has the speed to take the top off of a defense, hauling in a 51-yard touchdown bomb from Bradford to put the game out of reach for the Cardinals.

As raw as Givens still is, though, defenses can simply slide safety help over to not get beat deep. Plus, Bradford typically doesn't have the luxury of sitting in a clean pocket to deliver the ball down the field.

What will truly determine how effective the offense can be is how quickly Quick can develop. As the first pick in the second round of this year's draft, the Appalachian State product has been fairly underwhelming. He is meant to fill in as the long-term No. 1 target the Rams have been searching for, and Quick definitely has the physical tools to be just that.

One catch for 19 yards from somebody drafted that high, though, is unacceptable. It's time for Quick to step up to the plate and pull his weight in Amendola's absence—however long it may be. Quick will have to take snaps from Steve Smith and Gibson to see the field on a consistent basis, though.

Not only will Amendola's injury impact the offense's overall production, but it will also directly effect the other two phases of the game.

Rather than Amendola returning, rising rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins will be at risk on punt returns. Jenkins, along with free-agent acquisition Cortland Finnegan, have proven to be an extremely tough challenge for opposing offenses. Losing the talented second-round pick would be detrimental.

The NFC West is stacked with four formidable defensive units. St. Louis arguably has the worst offense of the four teams minus Amendola, which will likely result in the defense being on the field for longer stretches of time.

Stacked boxes and all-out pressures will allow defenses to pin their ears back and come after Bradford. It's up to his skill players to beat one-on-one coverage and have the awareness to sit in zones and snap their heads around for hot reads.

Nineteen of Amendola's 32 catches went for first downs, which means offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will have to get creative in finding ways to move the chains. Otherwise, it won't matter how good St. Louis' defense is. They will be gassed and gashed by the end of each game.

For all phases of Rams football and all hopes of continuing the momentum of a 2-0 start in the division, Amendola must return as soon as possible. He makes or breaks Jeff Fisher's team as a shocking playoff contender.