Danny Amendola was turning into one of the feel-good stories of the 2012 season for the St. Louis Rams, becoming a fantasy football PPR monster and helping the Rams to a 3-2 start in Jeff Fisher's first season.
But after an injury to his shoulder/collarbone on Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals, Amendola now finds himself on the sideline wishing one of his fellow WRs will step up for Sam Bradford and the rest of the offense.
It's not as if St. Louis doesn't have options. Wide receiver is a position the Rams have tried to address almost every season since bringing Bradford aboard as their QB of the future—even testing out Brandon Lloyd in a jam last season.
They used a second-round selection on Brian Quick in the 2012 draft, and signed former New York Giants receiver Steve Smith in the offseason to help bolster their receiving corp.
But Amendola was making a mockery of the rest of Bradford's targets, catching 32 passes before going down with injury. It was close to half of all the passes completed (85) this season in St. Louis.
Someone is going to have to step up with Amendola on the sideline for the foreseeable future. Here's a look at the most likely candidates, and what they'll have to do to get down the timing needed to be a solid target for Bradford going forward.
The 33rd overall selection has all the physical tools to succeed, but he's been inactive some games and been unable to stay on the field as a rookie (via St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
That's poised to change, as he'll be active and likely starting in some upcoming games, especially if Amendola misses an extended period of time. Quick must work on his route running and playbook knowledge if he wants to make an impact. Although it would be nice to have a huge target for Bradford to hoist it up to in the end zone.
He was Bradford's intended receiver on the fade to the end zone that Patrick Peterson picked off on Thursday, so it's clear the coaching staff and the QB recognize he has the talent to help them score.
The tight end made a big impact last night, catching the early touchdown pass from Bradford that proved to be the game-winner.
He's not a solid blocker yet, but Kendricks' strength is catching the football. That will need to be on display going forward, as he might turn into the same kind of possession receiver that Amendola gave Bradford on a week-to-week basis.
Which receiver will step up most for the Rams?
Where has this guy been? Well, inactive for two straight weeks, Smith can't seem to find a role in the offense. Chris Givens handles returns and makes the active roster that way, and this week Quick found himself in the thick of it.
With Amendola out, I see Smith being a big factor for Bradford. He's a heady receiver who runs great routes, catches the ball and has a fiery emotion seen when there are big plays to be made. His time with the Giants helped them win a Super Bowl (2007), and his experience on an otherwise unproven group of youngsters could be great for both the future and right now.
The only semblance of a No. 2 receiver right now, Gibson starts opposite Amendola and draws single coverage most games out. He might not see as much of it now, as he'll have the inside track on the most targets from Bradford.
Gibson's two early season touchdowns were great for fantasy owners, but he needs to start putting in respectable weeks every game to warrant the kind of talk as a No. 1 in this offense.
The kick returner was thrust into full-time duty last night, and he responded with a 51-yard touchdown catch from Bradford to help seal the game for the Rams.
Givens was kept on the roster to help special teams, but he might be the biggest wild card of the group. His speed in the slot and on the outside will help keep him on the field, and if he can add a deep dimension to the offense, he's extremely valuable going forward.
Mr. Reliable at Boise State is quite the same for the Rams, as he'll likely be given the first shot at starting opposite Brandon Gibson. Pettis is a consistent receiver who makes the catches needed to win games in big spots.
He was suspended for the first two games of the season, so he's still working his way back into good graces with the team. But when given the opportunity, this kid could shine, as he did in college at one of the best programs in the nation during his tenure.
It wouldn't be a huge surprise to see Pettis finally break out and be the kind of player he was in college. If there was ever a time for it, it's now since the balls seem to be up for grabs in St. Louis.