Sims-Walker Sets Sights on Big Season

Posted Aug 24, 2011

When Mike Sims-Walker went searching for a new football home upon the start of free agency in late July, he knew exactly what he wanted in his new team.

The list looked something like this: an offensive coordinator who likes to move receivers around and get the ball down the field, a talented quarterback who can take advantage of a more open offense and an opening at wide receiver for someone to come in and make a difference.

In signing with the Rams in early August, Sims-Walker found all of those things in one place which made his decision to come to St. Louis an easy one.

“(Offensive coordinator) Josh McDaniels has a history of having a great offense,” Sims-Walker said. “I wanted to be a part of it. This is a great opportunity for me. Coming in with (quarterback) Sam (Bradford) and the whole Rams organization, it was a no brainer for me.”

Indeed, Sims-Walker has found a home that he hopes to make a permanent one, despite signing just a one-year deal. With Bradford in place for the long term future and McDaniels calling the shots, Sims-Walker couldn’t help but feel like St. Louis would provide him with a chance to become the player he showed glimpses of becoming in his four seasons in Jacksonville.

Amid a heated competition at wide receiver, Sims-Walker even sees the possibility of becoming the team’s No. 1 target, a goal he says should be on everyone’s mind.

“That better be everybody’s goal at the receiver position,” Sims-Walker said. “Of course that’s mine and I hope that’s everybody’s position. I mean it’s a job. If you love what you’re doing, you compete at what you’re doing; everybody wants to be the No.1.”

For whatever it’s worth, Sims-Walker had flashed the potential on multiple occasions of being a legitimate top threat while with the Jaguars.

After he became a starter in 2009, Sims-Walker posted a combined 106 catches for 1,431 yards and 14 touchdowns in the past two seasons.

But injuries and a run first, run second offense kept Sims-Walker from truly breaking out.

“It was a lot of ground and pound (in Jacksonville),” Sims-Walker said. “It relied a lot on the running game in Jacksonville. Here I think we’ll be more balanced, rely more on the passing game just as much as the running game.”

For Sims-Walker to become a part of that more passing-reliant offense, he’s going to have to find a way to stay on the field.

With Jacksonville, Sims-Walker missed his rookie season with a left knee injury. He missed games in his second year with a knee sprain and has been hampered by knee and ankle issues for short stints since.

Forced to sit for the better part of the first week of training camp because of NFL rules on veteran free agent signings, Sims-Walker suffered another slight set back in the preseason opener when he came out with a groin injury that kept him out of practice last week.

Sims-Walker said even just that minor ailment was frustrating because it cost him valuable practice time he wants to get up to speed in a new offense.

“Absolutely, especially when I first got here I already couldn’t practice the first four or five days and I come back and a week later and I couldn’t practice again for a few days,” Sims-Walker said. “I feel like it put me behind because I get better off practice with more reps, especially in a new offense where I am coming in blind. That set me back a little bit and I think it kind of showed in the game a little bit. I slipped on a couple of routes. That just comes from not getting the reps.”

Sims-Walker has undoubtedly bounced back strong, having what he called perhaps his best practice as a Ram on Tuesday, including catching a long pass from Bradford for a touchdown against the top defense in team drills.

Because Sims-Walker is a recent signee, he also didn’t have the benefit of working in the player-organized workouts with Bradford like many of the other receivers did. That has made his learning curve a bit steeper as he adjusts to St. Louis.

“It’s been great working with him and I feel like especially this week since he’s been healthy, we’ve had two good practices,” Bradford said. “I’ve got a lot of time with him over the past two days and even over the past two weeks. It seems like we’re starting to become more on the same page.”

Sims-Walker echoes those sentiments and has begun to show why he believes this offense is better suited for his skill set.

In Jacksonville, the Jaguars lean heavily on running back Maurice Jones-Drew to carry the load. As such, the offense doesn’t ask the receivers to run many different routes and to focus their attention on blocking.

The Rams offense asks the wideouts to do a lot, run the whole route tree and move into a variety of positions. Sims-Walker likes the variance that comes with the job and says he’s willing to do it all but hopes he can be more of a down field threat for Bradford such as the 26-yard deep in he ran last week against Tennessee.

“I try not to limit myself,” Sims-Walker said. “I try to do it all. But I do like to be more of a down field guy, across the middle, deep balls, that sort of stuff. I’ll let Danny Amendola take care of the little short stuff.”

For now, Sims-Walker has been getting most of his work with the first-team offense. That doesn’t seem like it’s changing any time soon. And with that work comes the repetitions he believes are needed to become the player he’s long believed he can be. 

“I am new, I don’t know everything,” Sims-Walker said. “So I am just trying to catch on, get comfortable. The more and more practice reps I get, the better off I’ll be.”