Rams Look to Grow Givens' Role

Posted Nov 6, 2012

Through one-half of one season, Rams rookie receiver Chris Givens has been something of a one-trick pony.

To be sure, Givens did that one trick – get deep and make big plays - better than any rookie receiver in history as he surged to a still-current five game streak in which he had at least one reception for 50 yards or more.

But as the Rams enter the second half of their season, Rams coach Jeff Fisher is expecting more from the uber-fast young wideout.

“He’s made the big plays for us,” Fisher said. “We’d like to continue to get him more involved. We’re thinking that the big plays should create opportunities for him underneath as well. Thirteen catches is not a lot of catches but when you take into consideration the long ones, he’s been productive. But like the rest of the group, we want to get him more involved in the offense.”

Indeed, the Rams were well aware when they used the first selection of the fourth round on Givens that they were getting a speedster with the ability to burn defenses over the top.

One teammate even joked early in camp that Givens should wear No. 9 because that would be the route he’d be running more often than not. And while Givens certainly has proved more than capable of doing that in posting 13 catches for 333 yards, an astounding average of 25.6 yards per grab with two touchdowns, he hasn’t been involved much in the passing game aside from those deep shots.

Not that Givens is too concerned with that one way or the other but he does agree with the head coach that as defenses grow to respect his deep speed; he could have some more opportunities in the short and intermediate passing game.

“I definitely do feel like it could,” Givens said. “I am just going to go with the game plan and whatever the coaches have assigned for me to do this week; I am going to do it.”

Signs of a continued emergence in other parts of the passing game actually peeked through in the couple of games before the bye week against Green Bay and New England though Givens has been slowed a bit by a toe injury.

“He’s moving around, playing different positions, playing different packages now,” Fisher said. “As opposed to when he walked in the door, he was a little overwhelmed with the offense. But he has a good sense for the offense. He’s got good patience in his route running as we noticed the other night on the touchdown pass. He’s consistently making plays for us.”

Considering that Givens is still relatively new to the nuances of playing receiver after working as a running back during his high school career, there is still plenty of room for growth.

But when Givens was at Wake Forest, he showed an ability to take short passes and turn them into long gains using some of those running back skills. It’s why when he’s asked who some of his football heroes were growing up, he rattles off names of running backs and when he finally gets to a receiver, he goes with one who played a lot of running back and makes plenty of catches near the line of scrimmage as well.

“I grew up a running back so growing up all of my so-called football idols were running backs like Eddie George, Terrell Davis, Barry Sanders, all those guys,” Givens said. “Once I got to college and started playing receiver, I became a big Percy Harvin fan. People ask me if I see myself being able to do a lot of the same things and honestly I am just working to be the best Chris Givens I can be.”

The best Givens there is, is probably the fastest player on the team already. When asked who would win a race in the 40-yard dash, Givens proclaims he would without hesitation and named rookie running back Daryl Richardson and receiver Danny Amendola as the winners of the silver and bronze, respectively.

Although Givens figures to get more work running routes other than just deep shots, that doesn’t mean those will go away, either. His 50-yard touchdown catch against the Patriots was his fifth straight week making a catch of that distance and moved him past former Chicago receiver/Olympic sprinter Willie Gault for the rookie record.

Of course, Givens isn’t overly impressed with his record and would like to keep the streak going as long as possible.

“I get a lot of updates about it,” Givens said. “My family and friends care more about it than I do so it’s just fun to have so we talk about it. We talk about it being a big thing but it would be a lot better if we keep doing it and can talk about it at the end of the season.”

SAFFOLD PROGRESSES: Tackle Rodger Saffold spoke in tentative terms last week when he was quizzed about the chance he could return from his knee injury this week against San Francisco.

Saffold was cautiously optimistic at the time but on Tuesday, he upgraded himself by removing the caution.

“I’m getting better and better every day,” Saffold said. “The more that I can keep getting confidence and then going out and doing things – like today was my first day being able to get some plays in team – I am excited just to see what I can do. But ultimately I have to keep listening to (head athletic trainer) Reggie (Scott) and the rest of the staff because they know better than I do. I feel great about today and I am really optimistic about the end of the week but we’ll just see how it goes.”
Participating in team drills is a step forward from his mostly individual work of a week ago but it remains to be seen just how he’ll handle the rest of the week.

If nothing else, Saffold made sure he’d give himself the best chance to return this week by staying in St. Louis during the bye week and continuing to work on his rehab.
“I don’t really have the opportunity to take days off because to tell you the truth, every day I have been injured has been a day off,” Saffold said. “So I tried to take advantage of it and do what I need to do to get better for my team.”

(NON) INJURY REPORT: No official update on Saffold, Amendola or any of the other injured Rams who might be returning this week will be issued on Tuesday because the short practice is a bit of a “bonus” workout for a team coming off the bye.

Saffold, Amendola, tackle Wayne Hunter and even center Scott Wells won’t have actual updates on their status until the team takes part in a full, regular practice on Wednesday afternoon and an injury report is released.

There were some positive signs in terms of returning players, though.

“Yes we did (have some guys back),” Fisher said. “And we are going to have our practice and injury report for you tomorrow.”

MORE PEAD?: Rams rookie running back Isaiah Pead got three carries and picked up 32 yards on those attempts in the waning moments of the loss to New England.

Fisher was pleased with what he saw and said Tuesday that no matter the circumstance, Pead might have earned some more game reps.

“It was good,” Fisher said. “We are going to continue to try to get him some touches. It makes sense. You are playing in an NFL game; you are playing against NFL players and for him to flash like that regardless of the situation in the game was pretty impressive.”