Rams plugging in wide receivers

Thursday, November 19, 2009
Seahawks wide receiver Jordan Kent carries the ball against the Raiders during an NFL preseason football game Sept. 3 in Seattle. The Rams signed Kent on Wednesday to replace Keenan Burton, the receiver lost for the season to a knee injury. (Associated Press file)

ST. LOUIS -- Brandon Gibson was lost in the shuffle in Philadelphia, which is loaded with young, talented wide receivers.

The rookie has been quite the pick-me-up with the St. Louis Rams, a team desperate for pass catchers all year. So desperate that Gibson was Marc Bulger's primary target last week, making his first seven career receptions for 93 yards.

"I expect a lot out of myself," Gibson said Wednesday. "I feel I can play at a high level when I know what I'm doing."

With Arizona up next for the Rams, getting unknowns up to speed quickly has been part of their strategy for coping with injuries that have landed three wide receivers on injured reserve on a unit that was thin to begin with.

They've plucked players from teams with similar West Coast offenses, making it easier to plug in the replacements.

Gibson was a sixth-round pick out of Washington State and didn't dress for any of the six games he was with the Eagles. But he knew the system and played his first NFL game only 11 days after the Rams acquired him and a future draft pick for linebacker Will Witherspoon.

"It's a great offense," Gibson said. "And it's easy to pick up."

Switching to a completely different offense would have been another story.

"I can't even think about that," Gibson said. "I'm lucky I ended up here."

Danny Amendola also came from the Eagles, signed off their practice squad Sept. 22. Five days later, he returned the opening kickoff against the Packers and has been a solid contributor, averaging 23.8 yards on kickoffs, 8.8 yards on punt returns and catching 15 passes with an 8.5-yard average.

The Rams (1-8) now have signed Jordan Kent, who was among the Seahawks' final cuts before the season opener. It probably won't be long before they get the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Kent, who played in nine games and made one start for Seattle last season, on the field.

Bulger knew virtually nothing about the latest new guy, a former three-sport athlete at Oregon who also participated in basketball and track.

"He's a big kid," Bulger said. "Army, I think, something like that. He should be able to pick it up quick."

Somehow, Bulger had a season-best 298 yards passing last week in a 28-23 loss to the unbeaten Saints. Steven Jackson's third straight 100-yard rushing game and much improved pass protection were major contributing factors.

Second-year man Donnie Avery is the dean of the wide receiving crew. Inexperienced or not, they're getting more one-on-one matchups and winning them more often as they get comfortable.

"Separating on that one-on-one coverage is key, and we're going to get that more and more with Steven having the kind of year he is," Bulger said.

Gibson said he's in the right place most of the time, including a nice fourth-down catch plucking a ball nearly off the turf to keep the Rams' final drive alive on Sunday. If he's not in the right place, he tries to compensate with effort.

"When I'm out there I try to just react and you've got to play full speed," he said. "Even if you do mess up, you've got to mess up at 100 mph."

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