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Salas Set To Step Up

Posted Sep 15, 2011

Considering that Greg Salas and Danny Amendola both happen to play the same slot receiver position, are both capable of handling punt return duties and both put together statistically prolific college careers, the comparisons of the two were inevitable.

With Amendola out this week because of a dislocated left elbow, the rookie Salas will get his opportunity to step in and make his real first NFL impression. While he appreciates the compliment of being compared to Amendola, Salas has made it a point to emphasize that they aren’t the same player.

“We are two different players,” Salas said. “You can’t compare us like that. We play the same position in some sets. He’s a great player though so if I can get a comparison to him, that’d be great.”

Amendola has spent the past two years emerging as one of the Rams’ most reliable receivers and has certainly established himself as quarterback Sam Bradford’s top target. 

When Amendola suffered his injury last week against the Eagles, he had five catches for 45 yards and again seemed poised to be the team’s leading receiver.

Amendola has progressed some this week and believes he’s closer to a return than not. But coach Steve Spagnuolo said they want to be cautious with him.

“There’s no timetable on it,” Spagnuolo said. “You put a timetable on Danny Amendola; he’s going to make us all look wrong. He wants to do everything but we have to keep protect from himself a little bit.”

With Amendola almost certainly out this week, Bradford says there’s little doubt that there are some tweaks that will have to be made.

“Yeah, I would probably be lying if I said it didn’t change things,” Bradford said. “Obviously he’s the type of player who can do things that…his skill set is, I guess, a little different than anyone else that we have on the roster. He can do things that I guess we don’t really have anyone else who really can. I’m sure there are going to be a couple concepts that might be thrown out, but for the most part I think everything will still be intact and we’ll be able to run what we run.”

When the Rams do that, expect Salas to play a prominent role. He says he’s excited about the opportunity but not about how it has come about.

“It’s tough losing Danny,” Salas said. “He’s a good player; he’s a good person so it’s hard to see him go down like that. But he’ll be back and in the meantime if my number is called to help out the team, that’s what I’ve got to do.”
 
Drafted in the fourth round of this year’s NFL Draft out of Hawaii, Salas came to the Rams with a sparkling college resume that placed him among the most productive wideouts in the history of the college game.

To wit; Salas is 15th in NCAA history with 285 receptions and his 4,345 yards is sixth. Last season alone, Salas had 119 receptions (11th in NCAA history) and 1,889 yards (fourth).

Early in his first NFL training camp, Salas showed why he was so productive in his time at Hawaii. He and Bradford established a quick rapport and Salas appeared to be on the fast track to playing time and contributing right away.

That progress was slowed considerably when Salas suffered a hamstring injury a week into camp. That ailment kept Salas out for more than a week and when he returned the reps he had earned with the first team offense were no longer available.

Upon his return, Salas slowly worked his way back into the mix, keyed by a strong showing on the final drive of the preseason comeback win against Tennessee.

“I think he’s done a nice job,” Spagnuolo said. “I tell you what; he’s picked things up mentally pretty well. In training camp he fought through that injury and lost a lot of reps and then he had some catching up to do. I think he’s done it.”

At 6’1, 209 pounds Salas cuts a more imposing figure than the 5’11, 188-pound Amendola and he’s showed a knack for making yards after the catch by way of breaking tackles as opposed to Amendola’s preferred ankle breaking method.

“He has physical size, a bigger guy with good movement, good body control and he’s got great hands,” receivers coach Nolan Cromwell said. “He makes plays in a crowd and in tough situations and makes tough catches. What we need in our passing game, we have got to be better catchers of the football.”

Last week, Salas made his NFL regular season debut and acknowledged that it was a whole different game than the one he’d seen even in the preseason. Known for his reliable hands, he dropped a potential big gain catch after replacing Amendola.

“It’s great to get out there and get the game experience in a real live game,” Salas said. “It’s a lot different than the preseason. I had a drop and that’s not characteristic of me. It’s something I need to improve on. But it was good to get out there and catch a ball and run with it a little bit and get the flow of the game so that was a good experience for me.”

Salas did bounce back after the drop, making a catch and run for 21 yards that gave people a glimpse of what he can do.

Along with his likely expanded role in the offense, Salas also could figure into the mix on special teams. He is one of a few Rams who have worked on catching punts this week - along with fellow rookie receiver Austin Pettis - and all through the preseason.

At Hawaii, Salas served as the team’s primary punt returner, retuning 10 for 55 yards with a long of 32. He says he mostly was asked to make a fair catch on punt return but if asked to handle the role with Amendola out, he says he’s capable.

“I’m comfortable returning punts,” Salas said. “I did it all through college. I’ve been doing it this whole time I’ve been here so it’s not like it’s something new to me. They have been preparing me to do this. I’ve been back there every day catching punts since training camp so I’ll be ready if they need me.”