Tight end Lance Kendricks and DT Jermelle Cudjo came off the St. Louis Rams PUP list yesterday. While that roster move will be noted in the agate type of the daily newspapers, a healthy Kendricks, combined with the other additions to the Rams' receiving corps, could be the missing ingredient to a recipe for unprecedented success for this Rams offense.
Kendricks showed improvement in 2012. After being shut out of the end zone his rookie season, he and Sam Bradford found paydirt together four times last season. That's despite Kendricks often being the most dangerous receiving weapon the Rams had on the field, and thus the target of opposing defenses.
Kendricks' 42 catches last season is tied with Chris Givens for tops among returning Rams' receivers. That's good that Sam Bradford has some level of comfort with his returning targets. What's better though is how the addition of a healthy Kendricks to a mix of receivers that has added TE Jared Cook and "slash" player Tavon Austin could give the Rams an almost indefensible number of receiving weapons.
With the 6'4" Cook now running in the seem and out of the slot at times, Kendricks will now have the luxury of seeing more single coverage when he's out in a pattern. Last season, Kendricks often saw man to man linebacker coverage with a safety playing over the top. Now that the Rams have a genuine threat in Austin who can take the top off opposing defenses, look for Kendricks to be matched up in single coverage with a linebacker. Given Kendricks' speed and size, that will be a mismatch more often than not.
But that's not all. If opposing defenses start giving up chunks of yardage in the passing game because of mismatches with linebackers, they're likely to go to more nickel and dime coverages to compensate. While Cook isn't the bruising run blocker who can turn that into a mismatch, Kendricks can play that role.
Imagine the opposition having already surrendered big yardage through the air adjusting by removing a linebacker and inserting an extra corner or safety. Now imagine Kendricks' 6'3" 243 pound frame with a head of steam bearing down on that corner of safety with Daryl Richardson or Zac Stacy trailing behind. Can you say "road grader"?
Sam Bradford, for one, is excited about Kendricks return and what it means for the Rams' offense:
"That’s (having Kendricks back) huge. That’s really big for us. I think it’s going to be really exciting to see Kendricks and Cook on the field at the same time. When we go ‘12’ (personnel set) with those two guys out there, there is a lot of speed on the field. And obviously everyone knows Lance’s ability to catch but also to be a very good blocker in the pass game and in the run game. So, it’s going to be exciting. It’ll be interesting to see just all the things we can do with those two on the field together.”
At Wisconsin, Kendricks specialized in splattering defensive backs downfield in the running game, and then dominating mismatches in the red zone and down the seem. It would appear that the Rams now have the right weapons assembled around him to fully utilize Kendricks' versatility.
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