Notebook: 10/25: Tight End Production Playing Key Role in Offensive Attack

Posted Oct 25, 2013

When the Rams renew their NFC West division rivalry with the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football, they will open a game with a quarterback other than Sam Bradford for the first time since the 2011 season finale. While it will be Kellen Clemens under center instead of Bradford, the rest of the Rams’ offensive scheme is expected to look much of the same. That could bode well for the team’s platoon of tight ends, which has quietly become among the league’s most productive.

Rams tight ends have caught six of the team’s 14 touchdown passes, and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has not been shy about utilizing the unit’s depth in that production. While TE Jared Cook was expected to provide a boost after being acquired as a free agent, his presence has done nothing to limit the production of others at his position.

TE Lance Kendricks, who has proven to be a reliable pass-catcher in his third year in St. Louis, enters Sunday with 18 receptions for 136 yards. His three touchdowns are one more than Cook has grabbed, and ranks second on the team behind WR Austin Pettis’ four scoring catches.

Even second-year TE Cory Harkey has gotten into the act. Harkey caught his first career TD pass in the Rams’ 38-13 win over Houston on Oct. 13, and was again featured last week against Carolina, as he caught a pair of passes for 14 yards.

“We obviously knew that bringing in ‘Cookie’ (Jared Cook) would be an added advantage, but certainly Lance Kendricks is a really good football player,” Schottenheimer said at his Friday press conference. “He produced for us last year, just gotten better. Second year in the system has certainly helped him. Cory Harkey is a guy that we got pretty lucky with finding him a couple years ago in the undrafted free agency. Really good group.”

The Rams remain among league leaders in red-zone scoring rate, carrying a mark of 90.5 percent into Sunday’s game, and the production of the tight ends has been a leading cause.

“The way some people have been playing us, those have been some of the matchups that we’ve been able to kind of take advantage of,” Schottenheimer said.

News and Notes:

-While Seattle’s offense has had considerable success on the ground, they have been less proficient through the air and, in particular, protecting their passer. Through seven games, Seattle has allowed 23 sacks, tied with Buffalo for the fourth-highest total in the NFL. Conversely, the Rams possess the NFC’s leading pass rusher in Robert Quinn, who is averaging a sack per game entering Sunday.

-After Sunday, the Rams will have faced the league’s top three defensive teams in succession. Houston was the league’s top-ranked defense, and the Rams defeated the Texans 38-13, before losing 30-15 to the league’s third-ranked unit in Carolina.

“It’s what you deal with in this league,” Schottenheimer said of the recent string of stellar defensive opponents. “Even the ones that are down there at 31, 32, they’re pretty good. Obviously, we know these guys. They are clearly one of the best defenses in the league. Excellent front seven. They went out and spent a lot of money on extra pass rushers. (DE Michael) Bennett’s playing at a real high level to go along with (DE Chris) Clemons and those guys. They’ve got (DE) Red Bryant, (DT Brandon) Mebane, you go down the list. (LB Bruce) Irvin’s playing more, and then the secondary is probably the best in football. You go out there and we’ve got a good plan I think. Guys have been working hard in practice and we’ll see what happens Monday night.”