NFL: Mark Clayton Is the X-Factor the St. Louis Rams Need

Brian TaylorCorrespondent IIIOctober 19, 2011

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Mark Clayton #89 of the St. Louis Rams warms up before their game against the Oakland Raiders at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 19, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Coming off the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list this week for the St. Louis Rams will be wide receiver Mark Clayton. For a Rams team that has struggled to move the ball offensively, he could wind up being a real game changer for the second half of the season.

A season ago, Clayton and Sam Bradford seemed to have solid chemistry with each other instantly. During week one a season ago, Bradford was able to connect with him 10 times for 119 yards. The following week, the duo came up with two touchdown connections in Oakland.

This season has been a different story.

Without Mark Clayton, Bradford's completion percentage has dropped from 60 percent to 52.8 percent. One of the main reasons for this major drop off has been the lack of production at the wide receiver position. None of the Rams receivers have established themselves as reliable threats. They have been unable to win one-on-one matchups and have dropped about as many balls as any team in the NFL.

Sam Bradford got a new toy this week when the Rams traded for Brandon Lloyd, but expecting instant chemistry between those two is far-fetched. Lloyd will be a tremendous target for St. Louis and will help stretch the field for them. His presence will also likely help out the younger receivers as well. But, with Lloyd having a down year, and the chance that the chemistry with Bradford won't be top notch from the get go, Mark Clayton still stands as the wide receiver with the best chance of breaking out.

If he is 100 percent healthy, then Mark Clayton could instantly be the most effective receiver this week against the Dallas Cowboys. There is a good chance that he will start opposite of Brandon Lloyd which will give the Rams at least a respectable wide receiver tandem. Lloyd will be considered the bigger threat and that should leave Clayton with softer coverage for most of the game.

In the upcoming weeks, St. Louis will get numerous teams that have weak pass defenses. The New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, and Seattle Seahawks are all in the bottom half of the NFL as far as passing yards allowed a game is concerned. Clayton will have a chance to put up good numbers against all of them.

Mark Clayton will be an X-factor for the St. Louis Rams because he gives Sam Bradford another trusted, reliable wide receiver. Aside from that, his presence makes the Rams passing game respectable which should open up holes for Steven Jackson. His return comes at the perfect time for a Rams team that will need to make a serious run if they want to make the playoffs.