Mardy Gilyard: The Peculiar Case of the St. Louis Rams Wide Receiver

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Mardy Gilyard: The Peculiar Case of the St. Louis Rams Wide Receiver
ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 13: Mardy Gilyard #81 of the St. Louis Rams looks for room to run on a punt return against the Indianapolis Colts during the NFL preseason game at Edward Jones Dome on August 13, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Rams defeated the Colts 33-10. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The St. Louis Rams came into this season with a strong need at the wide receiver position. It wasn't that they necessarily needed to go out and sign a bunch of new guys; they just needed the players that were currently on the roster to perform better. Many people debated who could step up for the Rams in 2011, throwing out names such as Danario Alexander, Brandon Gibson, Donnie Avery and so on.

One guy many people were quick to forget about was second-year receiver Mardy Gilyard. Here you and I sit at our computers, wondering if Gilyard not only has a chance of making the roster, but having an immense impact on the upcoming season as well.

I'll be honest with you: I didn't think Gilyard had a shot in hell at making the team this season. He looked so tremendously lost in his first season that I was left thinking, what if this guy just can't play at this level?

I mean, you see plenty of people who were stars in college, only to come to the pros and do absolutely nothing. If an elite college player could tumble, then surely Gilyard, who had success but was never considered elite during his time at Cincinnati, could be capable of simply falling flat on his face.

With trade rumors and disappointment swirling, we all expected the Rams were ready to part ways with the youngster. Yet here you and I sit, wondering if perhaps Gilyard might finally be figuring it out. 

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The improvement was noticed immediately this year, with Gilyard performing well against the Indianapolis Colts in the preseason opener. He showed flashes of being a valuable asset in the return game, running a punt and kick back for impressive gains. He looked more comfortable as a receiver in the spread offense, excelling at making quick catches and then making defenders miss.

Once again, though, I sort of cast his performance to the side, rationalizing the situation with the simple thought, ANYONE can have a big preseason. Remember Victor Cruz from last year?

Then Gilyard went out against the Tennessee Titans and had another big impact in a game where the Rams lacked offensive firepower (outside of the Sam Bradford to Brandon Gibson TD pass, of course). He came up with a clutch catch late in the game and once again displayed impressive skills as a returner. It wasn't an incredible performance, but it was enough to make us wonder: Should the Rams fit Mardy Gilyard back into their plans?

Putting Gilyard at the return spot would allow slot receiver Danny Amendola to focus solely on offense, something that would be a welcome sight to anyone who has seen the undersized wideout take a shot during returns. Gilyard wouldn't necessarily be a threat at the position, but he possesses the shiftiness and good enough wheels to break away from time to time.

As a slot man, he doesn't have a tremendously high ceiling, but he could contribute a little to the position. It's just a matter of where he would fit in on the depth chart.

The Rams have a plethora of young, intriguing receivers with a group that includes Brandon Gibson, Donnie Avery, Mike Sims-Walker, Danario Alexander, Greg Salas, Austin Pettis and, of course, Gilyard. Unless the Rams decide to carry eight receivers on the team, one of the up-and-comers would have to be placed on the practice squad or cut. 

Perhaps Gilyard hasn't done enough to make the team. I mean, he hasn't had THAT impressive of a preseason statistically. Perhaps, though, head coach Steve Spagnuolo is sitting at his desk, just as enthralled with the potential Gilyard is beginning to show as you and I are. Perhaps they want to see if this fourth-round pick, who a year ago looked as lost as ever, is really getting on track.

He has two more weeks to win us all over completely. Until then, you and I can only sit here at our computers and wonder.

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