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Tuesday, August 16, 2011
First impressions: A look at Rams' receivers

By Mike Sando

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could see the first question coming from the reporters surrounding him following the St. Louis Rams' practice Tuesday.

It had to be about the situation at wide receiver. It was.

Here is what you need to know: The Rams trust McDaniels' system enough to diminish widespread public fears over their injury-riddled, largely unproven group of wideouts. They expect promising rookie tight end Lance Kendricks to play a significant role in the offense. And they're also confident quarterback Sam Bradford can help maximize their receivers' potential.

Rams receiver Mike Sims-Walker
The Rams signed former Jaguars reciever Mike Sims-Walker this offseason and will ask him to play multiple receiver positions.
Still thinking the Rams should have made a play for a dynamic talent such as Sidney Rice? I tend to think so, but the Rams apparently were not interested in paying a premium for a player without a demonstrated record of consistency from year to year. They picked up Mike Sims-Walker at a discount and are asking him to play all three positions, not just the "X" receiver spot he played for Jacksonville in 2010.

"Our philosophy is, we want to do what we should do each week based on the opponent, and that may change," McDaniels said. "We may end up having more guys in the slot from one week and then the next week we don't line up in slot formation at all because that is not really how to beat that team. We have to be flexible so we can attack and put stress on the defense as best we can."

The word "stress" is a McDaniels favorite. He often speaks of stressing defenses, not necessarily stretching them.

Translation: Adding a receiver with track-certified speed isn't a necessity.

Widespread injuries at receiver stressed the Rams last season. The injury report hasn't been very kind to the position during camp, either.

Danny Amendola projects as the Rams' leader in receptions for another season. Sims-Walker, Brandon Gibson, Greg Salas and Austin Pettis appear likely to earn roster spots.

Alexander would seemingly figure into the mix if his knees hold up well enough. Donnie Avery has starting potential when healthy, but he missed another practice Tuesday. He missed all 16 games last season after suffering a torn ACL during preseason.

Second-year pro Mardy Gilyard is having a strong camp. He carries value on special teams. But can the Rams trust him to produce consistently while providing the versatility they require?

A few observations on receivers from Tuesday:
It's still early. The position has yet to shake out. Players could and likely will emerge. And there's no question Kendricks' addition at tight end has given the Rams a welcome option. He caught a touchdown pass in his preseason debut and has impressed veteran teammates.

"We've got a lot of guys moving in and out of different spots right now," McDaniels said. "We still got a long way to go and a lot of things to do and a lot of things to evaluate."