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Wide receiver looks to invigorate St. Louis Rams' passing attack
It's safe to say that the St. Louis Rams, who have yet to win a game this season, probably won't make the NFL playoffs. However, it appears they haven't thrown in the towel yet, either, as evidenced by Monday's trade for Brandon Lloyd.
The addition of the former Denver Broncos wide receiver provides quarterback Sam Bradford and the Rams' passing attack with something they have been lacking —a bona fide No. 1 receiver. Lloyd immediately becomes the top option for the Rams' aerial attack, which currently ranks 25th in the NFL with 209.4 yards per game.
The Rams acquired Lloyd from the Broncos on Monday for a conditional sixth-round pick in next year's draft. The pick could become a fifth-rounder, depending on how many receptions Lloyd has with the Rams.
Lloyd, 30, was in the last year of his contract with the Broncos and didn't figure in the team's future plans. With the trade, Lloyd is reunited with Ram's offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who was the Broncos' head coach last season.
Having played for McDaniels in Denver, Lloyd is familiar with the Rams' offense, so there's little reason to think he won't be in the starting line up this Sunday when the Rams travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys.
Further, it was under McDaniels that Lloyd had his best season, when he caught 77 passes for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010. This year he has 19 receptions for 283 yards and no touchdowns.
Even though Lloyd's production is down this year compared to last, he still represents an upgrade for the Rams' receiving corps. Brandon Gibson currently leads the Rams with 17 receptions, which have gone for 214 yards and a touchdown.
Danario Alexander has received the most targets (33, same number as Lloyd) and has the most receiving yards with 287. He also is averaging more than 20 yards per catch and has one touchdown.
Lloyd's arrival also means the departure of Mike Sims-Walker, who signed as a free agent in August and was released Monday afternoon. He was expected to be the Rams' starting wide receiver, opposite Danny Amendola, before the start of this season. Sims-Walker caught six passes against the New York Giants in Week 2, but totaled five receptions in three other games. He was inactive this past Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
Amendola, on the other hand, was the Rams' leading receiver last year, but he went down in Week 1 with a dislocated elbow and then suffered a triceps tear that required surgery. Looking at a four-month recovery, the team placed him on injured reserve during their bye week, ending his season.
Lloyd should be one starter, with Alexander, a viable deep threat provided he can stay healthy, lining up on the other side. Gibson had replaced Amendola as the Rams' second option/slot receiver, but he's being pushed by rookie Greg Salas, who caught eight passes against the Packers.
Regardless, the addition of Lloyd should lead to good things for the Rams’ passing attack and likewise, Bradford’s numbers. Bradford was the AP’s Offensive Rookie of the Year last season after completing 60 percent of his passes for 3,512 yards (219.5 ypg) with 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 76.5. Five games into this season, Bradford’s completion percentage has dropped to 53 percent and he’s thrown for 1,170 yards (234 ypg) with just three touchdown passes and two interceptions for a quarterback rating of 72.0.
Some of Bradford’s struggles can be attributed to the offensive line. Last year he was sacked a total of 34 times. This year, Bradford’s already been sacked an NFL-high 21 times. At this rate (4.2 sacks per game), Bradford is on pace to be sacked 67 times. Last year, the Chicago Bears’ Jay Cutler was sacked 52 times, the most of any quarterback.
Besides the offensive line, wide receiver play has not helped Bradford’s production, as Rams receivers have already dropped 11 passes this season. That ties for the sixth-most in the NFL, according to STATS.
Lloyd should help here as he has 19 receptions on 33 targets this season, meaning he has caught 58 percent of the passes thrown his way. Among Rams receivers with 20 or more targets, only Salas (13 for 21, 62 percent) has a better percentage than Lloyd.
Unfortunately, as eager as Bradford may be to start working with Lloyd, he may have to wait a while still. Bradford suffered a high left ankle sprain in the loss to the Packers and is in a walking boot. His status for this Sunday’s game against the Cowboys is up in the air and the Rams are preparing to have backup A.J. Feeley under center instead of Bradford.
Feeley is an 11-year veteran, but he’s played in a total of 24 games and he’s just 1-for-5 for 21 yards in mop up duty this season. He has 15 career starts under his belt, but his most recent one came with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007.
Obviously not the scenario the Rams envisioned when they made the trade for Lloyd, but at least Bradford has something to look forward to, or more specifically, someone to look forward to throwing to, when he does return to action.