<
>

Kenny Britt wants to move past six-year 'letdown'

6/8/2015

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt led the team in receiving yards in 2014 and became the first Rams wideout to surpass 700 receiving yards since Torry Holt in 2008.

It was a solid, if unspectacular first go with the Rams, but it was at least better than what the team has gotten from any of its pass catchers since Holt's departure. It also wasn't the first time that Britt had ventured into the 50-catch, 700-yard range.

To hear Britt tell it, however, it was just the latest in a series of disappointing seasons.

"There’s definitely more I feel like I can give because there’s more that I want to give and there’s more that I want to do in my career," Britt said. "I’m going into my seventh year, I feel I let myself down the last six years. I have a chip on my shoulder this year and I’ve got a lot to prove."

Last season was Britt's first in St. Louis after spending his first five years with the Tennessee Titans but it wasn't his first playing for coach Jeff Fisher. Fisher is the coach who drafted Britt in Tennessee and the coach under whom Britt has undoubtedly had his most success in the league.

That's why, when Britt hit free agency after his one-year, "prove it" contract with the Rams expired, he had no designs on going anywhere else. Even though Britt didn't sign a new two-year deal with the Rams until a few days into free agency, he said he never really considered any outside offers despite some interest.

"Not in my mind, not in my family’s mind or my wife’s mind," Britt said. "I know where I wanted to be all along coming into the season."

And with good reason. Although Britt sounds wholly unsatisfied by his production to this point in his career, his drop off when he hasn't played for a Fisher-led team versus what he has done with Fisher at the helm is striking.

Britt's healthiest and most productive years have come under Fisher's guidance. In three seasons with Fisher, Britt averaged 741.3 yards, 44 receptions and five touchdowns while missing four of a possible 48 games. In three seasons without Fisher, Britt averaged 324.7 yards, 24.3 catches and 2.3 touchdowns while missing 19 of a possible 48 games.

Fisher has a reputation as a player's coach and knows when to ask for more and when to allow for breaks. That helps keep players healthy. Near the end of last season, Britt was one of the veterans Fisher allowed to take a day or two off in practice each week so he could be ready to go on Sundays.

According to Britt, that's just part of the appeal of returning to Fisher and St. Louis.

"There’s definitely something to that," Britt said. "Fisher is a coach that lets you be yourself on the field and off the field. He treats you like a man instead of a child. He lets the coaches coach and he lets the players do the plays on the field and off the field. That’s something you can be comfortable is being yourself instead of being uptight and watching what you have to say or what you have to do. I’m definitely more relaxed. And when you’re more relaxed, you play better."

The question then becomes just how much better Britt can be. The reality is that the Rams offense probably isn't going to offer a chance for Britt or any of the team's pass catchers to put up the type of numbers that other top receivers around the league do in more pass-happy offenses.

Last week, Britt offered glowing praise for new quarterback Nick Foles and made it clear that the receivers are building a strong rapport with him. But even if that takes shape, if the Rams' running game takes off how they envision, there simply might not be much leeway for Britt to improve upon his 2014 production.

One way it could happen is to have Foles connect on more deep balls. Rams passers targeted Britt on throws traveling 20 or more yards in the air 25 times in 2014 but only connected 10 times. On a number of those incompletions, quarterbacks Shaun Hill and Austin Davis simply misfired with an open Britt running down the field.

Although Britt is entering his seventh season in the league, he's only 26, which means there could be more room for growth. He also seems to be as healthy as he has been in years, playing in all 16 games last year for the first time since his rookie season in 2009.

"I think every year I have more," Britt said. "I always say I have more. I don’t want to leave this season saying I left something out there on the field."