Receivers short on numbers, credentials

Friday, September 11, 2009
Rams tight end Randy McMichael caught four passes before getting injured last season. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo can at least count on a trio of tight ends led by McMichael as well as running back Steven Jackson in the opener Sunday at Seattle. (JEFF ROBERSON ~ Associated Press)

ST. LOUIS -- Donnie Avery might as well get used to double coverage. He's only in his second season, but the St. Louis Rams' other three wide receivers have even thinner resumes.

Avery, a second-round pick last year, caught 53 passes with three touchdowns and has the speed to make defenses take notice. The rest of the quartet combined for 24 receptions last year and also are young, with none of them having two years' experience.

It's a far cry from the days when quarterback Marc Bulger had Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, both likely future Hall of Famers, zipping downfield.

Coach Steve Spagnuolo joked that the backup plan for a roster that carries only four wide receivers calls for offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to suit up. He can at least count on a trio of tight ends led by Randy McMichael as well as running back Steven Jackson for diversity in the opener Sunday at Seattle.

Spagnuolo pointed out most teams don't activate more than five wide receivers for games anyway, leaving the Rams only one body short heading into his head coaching debut.

"Where we're lucky, where we are fortunate, is we've got some versatile tight ends," Spagnuolo said. "You get two injuries when you have five active, you're looking at the same thing."

The Rams are skimping at wide receiver because of concerns at other positions. They're also carrying 10 linemen on both sides of the ball, which will force several starters into duty on special teams.

Bulger, who's expected back from a broken pinkie on his throwing hand, said he'll have plenty of options in the Rams' new West Coast offense.

"I know this time of year there are concerns at different positions where you might have to steal a guy or two, and I think once things get worked out we might add wide receivers," Bulger said. "But we feel confident with the guys we have now."

Jackson holds the franchise record for running back receptions with 90 in 2006. McMichael had 39 catches in 2007, his last full season.

Avery made light of a question about the lack of depth at wide receiver, pointing to the locker stalls of Derek Stanley, Keenan Burton and Laurent Robinson as if he was introducing his teammates.

"All of us are fast," Avery said. "All of us are deep threats. If we get the ball in our hands, we can make something happen."

Robinson was acquired from the Falcons, general manager Billy Devaney's old team, after slumping to only five catches in an injury-shortened 2008. He's had to prove himself before, emerging from Illinois State as a third-round pick in 2007.

Stanley was a seventh-round pick in 2007 and began last year on the practice squad, making a splash when his first professional catch was an 80-yard touchdown pass against the Cardinals on Nov. 12. He ended up with six receptions before ending the year on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Burton, a fourth-rounder last year, had 13 catches as a rookie.

"People are not really expecting much from us," Burton said. "We're just going to go out and compete, have fun, and do exactly what's asked of us. We just have to step up to the challenge."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: