According the the St. Louis Rams official team website, Sam Bradford's favorite target will return to action in Week 10. Wide receiver Danny Amendola left the Rams' Week 5 game against the Arizona Cardinals with a broken clavicle.
Ever since Jeff Fisher's club finished off Arizona, it hasn't been able to put another W in the win column. It's currently 0-3 without Amendola, and its offense has only been averaging 255 yards a game through the air.
However, the most telling stat over the last few weeks has been its awful third-down conversion percentage.
Twnety-nine percent on third down is just not going to get the job done, plain and simple. With Amendola in the lineup, the Rams' conversion rate was a much more friendly 36 percent. Seven points higher may not seem like a whole lot, but look at it based on team rankings—St. Louis is last in the NFL when they don't have the shifty wide receiver in the slot, and they are No. 22 in third-down percentage when he is in the lineup.
Even though he has missed three games, Pro Football Focus has him as the No. 42 most-targeted receiver in the league. Based on projections, he would currently be the No. 10 most-targeted wideout if he hadn't gotten hurt. Through five games he was targeted 47 times—that's a little more than nine targets a game.
In his absence, Bradford has had to spread the ball around more. He hasn't had his safety blanket underneath. Brandon Gibson and rookie Chris Givens have been the top two target hogs in his absence. Gibson has amassed twenty targets and Givens has amassed 17 of his own.
Austin Pettis and Steve Smith shared reps in the slot, but neither player replicated No. 16's production.
Let's not forget that the undrafted wide receiver from Texas Tech missed all but one game in 2011 because of a dislocated elbow and torn triceps. Obviously fans flashed back to 2011 when the injuries initially happened, but so did Amendola:
I thought the worst, Amendola said. Obviously I was pretty upset. Luckily it wasn’t as bad as we thought and I’m going to be able to get back out there sooner than I expected. I have been waiting three weeks too many so I am ready to get back, Amendola said. I am just ready to get back. I had a couple good weeks of work, limited of course but I feel really good and I am ready to get back out there.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is hoping the emergence of Givens as a downfield threat will open things up over the middle of the field for Amendola. Currently, Givens is riding a streak where he has caught at least one 50-yard pass five games in a row—that, my friends, is an NFL rookie record.
When St. Louis didn't have a downfield threat, safeties would sit down in the box and patrol the middle to stop Amendola on underneath routes. With defenses now having to keep a safety back deep, he should see plenty of one-on-one coverage, which will allow him to be even more productive than he was before his injury.
Here's what Amendola had to say about Givens opening things up over the middle of the field:
“Yeah, he’s got a lot of speed and he can run downfield and open some things up for a lot of guys and he’s a great athlete,” Amendola said. “I’m ready to get back out there with him.”
Since 2010, the Rams are 10-12 when he is in the lineup and 2-15 when he is not in the lineup. St. Louis will be looking to make it 11-12 by game's end in San Francisco.
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