Listening in on a conversation with Nick Wagoner, our St. Louis Rams reporter, regarding the team's situation at wide receiver following criticisms from former NFL quarterback Bernie Kosar:
Mike Sando: The preseason is here, which means we've finally gotten a chance to analyze the local color commentators. The Rams' Marshall Faulk has always been known as the opinionated type. Turns out he has nothing on the Browns' Bernie Kosar. What did you think was behind the strong response from Rams coach Jeff Fisher?
Nick Wagoner: The one thing we definitely know about Fisher is that he is fiercely loyal to his players and coaches and they are every bit as loyal to him in return. You see that in everything he does, starting with how he built his staff when he first arrived in St. Louis. Guys like assistant head coach Dave McGinnis and secondary coach Chuck Cecil have been with him for a long time and would pass other opportunities to stay with Fisher.
Sando: Fisher also brought in Cortland Finnegan and Jared Cook, his former players with Tennessee, and paid them handsomely. But his loyalty has extended to new players as well, notably Sam Bradford. Fisher has never wavered in his strong support for Bradford even amid some of the familiar doubts.
Wagoner: Fisher seems like the type of guy who would rather be ripped personally than have one of his players or coaches get shredded. Kosar's issues with the receivers were interesting but I got the impression Fisher really didn't like the personal nature of the shots at Kellen Clemens. I know you were picking up on Kosar's comments as you watched it. What were your initial reactions? Did you think it would turn into a story like it has?
Sando: Yeah, I was picking up on Kosar's comments enough to email you 50 minutes into the broadcast. At that point, Kosar had said the Rams' receivers were horrible. He blamed them for Bradford's struggles in the past. Of course, none of the Rams' current receivers was on the roster before 2012. And, within minutes of that comment, Chris Givens made a 59-yard reception. Not long after that, I turned off the audio to the Browns' broadcast so I could listen to the beginning of the San Francisco game. I never heard what Kosar said about Clemens, so I had no idea this was going to become a bigger story. I do think Fisher pounced on the opportunity to have his players' backs, and that other coaches would have responded similarly if given the opportunity.
Wagoner: In some sense, I could see why Kosar would have his early assumptions about the receiver corps (though not to the extent that he went). Just given the overall lack of production there in recent seasons, he seemed to be making sweeping generalizations without knowledge of what's taken place in the offseason. Obviously, the Rams receivers still have to go out and prove themselves, but anyone who has seen them in camp and even back in the spring knows this isn't the same group it's been.
Sando: Fourteen wide receivers have caught passes for the Rams since Bradford's arrival in 2010. Chris Givens, Austin Pettis and Brian Quick are the only ones still on the team.
Wagoner: I'm sure Kosar isn't the only one who might be in for a bit of a wakeup call if that potential is realized. Between the apparent ascension of Givens and the additions of Cook and Tavon Austin, the Rams do have much better pass-catching options than they've had in quite a while. It's really just a matter of getting all of that talent to turn into meaningful production on the field.
Sando: Seeing Givens pick up where he left off last season is huge for the Rams. He is the closest thing to a "known" quantity at the position.
Wagoner: In many ways, Givens is better than he was last year. I sensed in the spring that he had matured quite a bit in the offseason, and based on some of his recent comments about separating himself from people who might not have been the best influences, it seems that's the case.
Sando: Quick is the player I'm wondering about most. How should we read what we've been hearing about him? It really doesn't sound all that encouraging for Week 1.
Wagoner: Quick continues to do what he did last year in practice, which is flash that immense potential one minute and then look lost the next. I thought he had two of his best practice days in this camp last week before the Cleveland game, then he went and had some nice catches in that game (one of which was called back).
Sando: They knew Quick was going to be raw coming out of Appalachian State. He's not going to be a finished product this season. He caught 11 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie. Can the Rams trust him?
Wagoner: Quick needs to find a way to bring that consistency every day. In my opinion, the Rams' ideal scenario would have Quick win that job opposite Givens. It would give them so much variety with their top four pass catchers. Imagine going from left to right with the speed of Givens outside, the size (and speed) of Cook in the slot next to him, the speed of Austin in the other slot and the size of Quick outside of Austin. Then you still can have Pettis as a jack of all trades.
Sando: I feel like it's a guessing game as to which players are going to produce from week to week. That is a good thing because it means the Rams have several weapons with talent. The glass is half full right now. There is really no way to accurately handicap how the pieces are going to come together right away. We should just bet on Cook, Givens and Austin being the primary guys as time passes based on what Givens has shown and what the Rams have invested in the other two. Quick strikes me as the big "X" factor and someone not yet consistent enough to bank on just yet.
Wagoner: That seems to be the book on Quick at this point in his career. The overall pure talent level at the position is enhanced but it's still a question as to which players will actually produce. It might be asking an awful lot of a group so young to meet some of the burgeoning expectations that these guys are creating.
Sando: The Rams are not banking on Quick necessarily. They've loaded up with young talent at the receiver and tight end. They've got options. If Quick hits his stride, all the better. I think this group is going places with or without him.