Undrafted receiver becomes go-to guy

Thursday, November 11, 2010

ST. LOUIS -- Diminutive Danny Amendola has made the most of his chance with the St. Louis Rams after getting plucked off the Eagles practice squad last year.

The 5 foot 11, 186-pounder has become rookie Sam Bradford's go-to wide receiver, rising above the rest of a no-name, injury-plagued crew. Clutch, too, for a surprise team that's tied for the NFC West lead.

"He's able to do so many things for this offense," Bradford said Wednesday. "He knows what he's doing, he knows the type of route he's going to have to run to get open and he just seems to get open all the time."

Before the team's bye last week, Amendola was second in the NFL with 17 third-down receptions. He leads the Rams (4-4) with 45 receptions and has a touchdown catch in the last two games. He's also been effective on kickoff and punt returns, with a 42-yarder earlier in the season.

"I just try to run the best route I can, catch the ball and hopefully get the first down," Amendola said. "It feels good. You get that opportunity, you've got to run with it."

Amendola's production somewhat has quieted criticism of the Rams' failure to invest in wide receivers to complement Bradford, the No. 1 pick in last April's draft, and two-time Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson. They were needy even before losing Donnie Avery in the preseason and Mark Clayton early in the year, and have only five wide receivers on the roster heading into this weekend's game at San Francisco (2-6).

The front office felt good enough about what was left and the chemistry in the locker room that they declined a shot to claim Randy Moss off waivers last week.

"If you can add a talent like that, it would definitely help us," Jackson said before Moss landed with the Titans. "But if it doesn't happen, we're not going to lose any sleep about it."

Bradford rarely has thrown deep in an offense content to chip away, and the other wide receivers haven't done much, with Brandon Gibson, Laurent Robinson and rookie Mardy Gilyard combining for 36 catches and two scores. Gilyard, a fourth-rounder who only has six catches, has been hindered by learning plays for three different positions, and Robinson has been hobbled by a foot injury.

"I don't worry about the names," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "I love all of them. I love them when they're making plays, and when they're not, we're just going to coach them up."

Amendola established himself as much more than a fill-in last year, setting a franchise record for kickoff return yards and catching 43 passes. Most of his receptions come on quick slants for short gains, and only once, in the opening loss to the Cardinals, did he average more than 10 yards a catch.

If the Rams could get a deep threat, it would open up things for Amendola from the slot. His specialty for now is keeping the chains moving.

Bradford is second in the NFL in converting third-and-11 or longer, going 15 of 18. Most of that's Amendola.

Amendola sustained a concussion on a devastating hit by the Lions' Zach Follett last November but didn't miss a game thanks to a bye week. He has a catch in every game this season, including 12 at Detroit and six receptions three other times.

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