Rookie fourth-round choice Chris Givens is changing the dynamic.
Givens is averaging 21.2 yards per reception. The routes he runs average 17.0 yards past the line of scrimmage. The average is 7.6 yards for the rest of the team and 10.0 yards for the Rams' other wide receivers, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Last season, no Rams wideout averaged better than 15.0 yards past the line of scrimmage on his routes. The leader was at 13.3 in 2010, 12.7 in 2009 and 14.2 in 2008 among players with at least one reception. Givens' average could come down as the Rams expand their plans for him. The big-play aspect is something they'll want to keep, of course.
Rams WRs on Play-Action by Route Depth
Givens, a fourth-round choice from Wake Forest, has 22 receptions for 467 yards and three touchdowns. He had a string of five consecutive games with at least one reception covering 50-plus yards. He's coming off a 115-yard game against Arizona, the first 100-yard game of his career. Givens averages a healthy 8.9 yards after the catch, tops among the 21 drafted rookie wideouts with at least one target this season.
"You're seeing more production, different types of production," Rams coach Jeff Fisher told reporters Monday. "The first few weeks it was the long balls and now he’s making the short catches and runs, the jailbreak screens, and then the third-down catch there in the fourth quarter (Sunday) was a big play for him as well."
A one-game suspension for violating team rules kept Givens from playing during a 24-24 tie at San Francisco in Week 10. Givens will be available for the rematch Sunday in St. Louis. The 49ers have allowed eight pass plays of 30-plus yards, tied for second-fewest in the NFL behind the Rams and Minnesota Vikings, who have allowed seven apiece. Tampa Bay has allowed a league-high 22.
The Rams' offense has needed a vertical dimension for years. Brandon Lloyd and Mark Clayton provided one sporadically in recent seasons. Givens has a team-high six receptions of at least 30 yards despite having only 43 targets. The 2009 Rams had six of them on 513 targets. St. Louis had 15 last season. The team has 14 through Week 12 this season.
Givens was the 14th receiver drafted in 2012 behind Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, A.J. Jenkins, teammate Brian Quick, Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery, Ryan Broyles, Rueben Randle, Devier Posey, T.J. Graham, Mohamed Sanu and T.Y. Hilton. Givens ranks third among drafted rookie wideouts in yardage, tied for fourth in touchdown receptions, first in 30-plus catches, second in yards after the catch and first in average route depth among rookies with at least one reception.
The first chart shows the Rams' play-action passing stats for wide receivers. The second chart shows corresponding figures on all passes, not just play-action attempts. I've ranked both charts by average route depth, which ESPN Stats & Information charts for all throws. It's a fresh way of looking at how teams use players.