Position Battles: Wide Receivers

Posted Aug 11, 2015

With a group of talented and hungry players, the Rams' unit of wide receivers has a chance to break out in a big way this season.

When it comes to wide receivers in the NFL, there are many who focus more on the individuals than a team’s group as a whole. And that should not the case with the 2015 Rams.

“They are a unit,” wide receivers coach Ray Sherman said. “Nobody cares about who’s No. 1, who’s No. 2 -- they don’t get caught up in that. All they know is whoever is in the ball game, whoever is in practice, you’ve got to do your job. And that’s the bottom line.”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re Kenny Britt, Brian Quick, Stedman [Bailey], Tavon [Austin] -- it’s not, hey, we throw you the ball every single time and you’re our cover boy for Madden,” general manager Les Snead said recently. “It’s execute your role, be really good at it, whether it’s your day to catch balls … or open it up for other people. And [if you] do that, the offense will be better.”

The four receivers Snead mentioned make up the core of the wide receivers group, and each will be looking to take a significant step forward this year. That starts with chemistry and cohesion between the players, a factor which Bailey called important.

“We’re looking to do very big things this year, and it starts in our room,” Bailey said. “Just [having] everybody on the same page, coming out here each and every day, working hard, pushing one another, and just putting it all together on Sundays.”

Having Nick Foles as the team’s quarterback should help with that mission, as he’s been connecting well with each of his receivers so far.

“On the field and off the field, Nick’s always the same and he’s often a voice out there,” Britt said. “He comes in with a smile and a positive attitude each and every day. And that’s someone I want to play with every snap.”

Heading into his seventh NFL season, Britt is the undisputed leader of the group. He finished first on the team with 748 yards receiving in 2014, and set a new career high with 48 receptions. After signing a new two-year contract as an unrestricted free agent in March, Britt is plenty motivated to make sure he has nothing left in the tank at the end of the season.

“I want to take another step in everything I do,” Britt said. “Make sure I prepare right, make sure I perform in practice, on the field, especially on Sundays, and also in the classroom.”

According to Sherman, Britt’s work ethic rubs off on the players around him.

“He gives you all he has in each and every practice,” Sherman said. “Sometimes he can be a little sore and he pushes through. And other guys see that and so they say, hey, it’s warm out here, Kenny’s a little sore [but] he’s pushing through. So we’ve got to go out here and push through. So he really sets it by not only talking about it as an example, when he’s out on the field preparing.”

While Quick has noted Britt’s positive affect on the group many times, the wideout from Appalachian State has also made a remarkable recovery from a season-ending shoulder injury he suffered last October.

“I was devastated,” Quick said. “First because I had never been injured, never been able to not get up and at least walk off the field by myself. And then, just I feel like I let my team down and the organization, and my coaches. It was just a bad feeling.”

But after attacking his rehab, Quick has exceeded expectations. Head coach Jeff Fisher recently said he expects the wideout to play in the preseason and be productive.

“What a blessing to have him back because of what happened last year and all the time that he’s missed,” Sherman said of Quick. “Now we’re ramping his reps up where he’s getting more reps and he’s getting better and better each and every day. So I’m very excited about him.”

There’s also reason to be fired up about the Rams’ two third-year West Virginia products, Austin and Bailey.

“Tavon is doing great -- very impressed with him,” offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti said, praising Austin’s work ethic. “When you watch him out here he’s becoming an outstanding route runner. From his releases, top of the route, his revolutions, [he’s] getting tremendous separation.”

“It’s a point of emphasis to get everybody open,” Cignetti added. “But Tavon, because he has a certain skill set, there are certain things you would like to do with him to him into a position to get touches.”

As for Bailey, the former third-round pick said that he gained a lot out of training in South Florida with Hall of Famer Chris Carter during the offseason.

“I met him when I was coming up in high school,” Bailey said. “His son, Duron Carter, we played against each other. And he noticed that I had some talent a long time ago and kind of took me under his wing. So it’s great, learning from a guy like him.”

With this group of players looking to step up, Sherman said the most significant way they can impact the offense is by making plays at each opportunity. 

“The bottom line is, whatever route is called, you make sure that you’re aware of where you’re supposed to be, so that the quarterback will have confidence that he can get the ball to you in that spot,” Sherman said. “And with Nick Foles, you can get that football at any time. It doesn’t matter what the route is. So we talk about those things, and they’re trying to do that now.”

With some strong preparation and a little luck, this year’s crop of wideouts should be a formidable unit.