EARTH CITY, Mo. -- When San Francisco traded 2012 first-round receiver A.J. Jenkins to Kansas City after one season Monday afternoon, the Niners sent a clear signal that they don’t have much time to wait for future stocks to cash in at a position of immediate need.
With primary receiver Michael Crabtree out because of an Achilles injury, the Niners need production and they need it now. Patience can be a virtue in the NFL but not if you’re a team on the cusp of winning the Super Bowl.
In St. Louis, the Rams have a young receiver -- drafted just three spots after the Niners took Jenkins with the 30th pick -- who has yet to reach his potential in Brian Quick.
But don’t expect the Rams to have the same quick trigger that San Francisco had with Jenkins just because he hasn’t turned potential into production at this early stage in his career.
Given Quick’s raw ability, his recent improvement on the practice field, the addition of other weapons around him and the stage of development of the young team as a whole, the Rams have the luxury of being able to wait for Quick to develop.
“It’s very easy to have patience because we knew when we drafted him it was going to take some time for him to grasp it, but now he has really put the time in and he’s grasping it very well,” receivers coach Ray Sherman said. “I am very pleased with what he’s doing. He’s a guy that before I might have to tell him a couple times to do something but now you can tell him one time and he gets it and understands what he needs to do. I am really impressed with the way he’s coming around.”
Before the 2012 NFL draft, Jenkins was one of a handful of wide receivers the Rams had targeted as a potential early selection. Top decision makers such as coach Jeff Fisher, general manager Les Snead, Sherman and others went on a mini tour of the country looking at the likes of Jenkins, Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright.
The visit to see Quick ended up sealing the deal as he put on a show in a private workout. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds with 4.53 speed in the 40-yard dash, Quick brought a size and speed combination previously lacking in the Rams receiver corps.
What Quick didn’t bring was much in the way of polish. Coming from tiny Appalachian State, Quick was widely regarded as a work in progress and didn’t get much in the way of opportunity in his rookie season.
As a rookie, Quick at least showed small glimpses of what could be, something Jenkins didn’t do in just 35 regular-season snaps spread out over three games. Quick finished with 11 catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
Quick often tantalized on the practice field but never put it together on a consistent basis, something that has plagued him in this year’s training camp as well, though there has been an uptick in that department in the past couple of weeks.
“I feel like I am eliminating my mistakes and my route running is getting way better,” Quick said. “Now it’s just being consistent. It’s going to take consistency and doing it all the time.”
Entering this season, more is expected of Quick but the Rams don’t have the pressing urgency of a team like San Francisco for him to be a regular contributor right away.
“No question, it helps,” Sherman said. “Also, those guys spent time together this offseason and trained together, so I think that camaraderie and bond they put together is also a plus. He listens and he watches and he has a chance to see it and he only can get better.”
Aside from learning to be a better route runner and having a better grasp on the playbook, two things Sherman has noticed in him so far, a big part of Quick taking the next step is building confidence.
By his own admission, Quick has not always stepped on the field knowing that he can get the job done. That manifested itself anytime he’s had a drop or a miscue which would lead to another and another. Thus the inconsistent tag that’s followed him to this point.
Recently, Quick has pieced together a string of solid practices and appears to be finding ways to move on from mistakes faster.
“You have to have things go your way in order to have that confidence,” Quick said. “It was always there but certain things have to happen. I feel like this year, right now, my confidence is building.”
Quick is well aware of the desire amongst fans for him to be an impact player. Considering his lofty draft status, it’s understandable that fans want a quick return on the investment.
After seeing what San Francisco did on Monday, though, perhaps the alternative of having a little patience and waiting for a young wideout to develop suddenly seems like a better alternative than giving up on a top pick so quickly.
“I just have to come in every day and be patient,” Quick said. “I have all these teammates and they back me up. I am blessed to be here and this coaching staff is patient with me. I just have to make sure I know my plays and I do the right things to prepare for the games and practice the right way. I feel like that’s the best part about it. There’s no pressure on me. I put pressure on myself but I feel like you have to. You have to and that’s what is going to make you a better player. You have to push yourself and make yourself work to get better and make those strides.”
For now, Quick is working with the second-team offense, though he spent Monday’s practice getting repetitions with the first team because of the excused absence of Austin.
The Rams will likely keep five or six receivers and Quick will almost certainly be one of them. In an ideal world, he’d probably win the starting job opposite Givens and allow the Rams to have a big-bodied option to complement Givens and Austin.
Even if that doesn’t come to fruition before the season or even during it, the Rams seem committed to seeing this project through before making any type of judgment.
“I’ve seen that growth in him,” Sherman said. “He’s more consistent now. As a puppy, he wasn’t sure, last year he wasn’t sure on certain things and he was still growing. He’s now starting to step up. I don’t have to say as much to him now because he has an understanding of what we want and what we are trying to do but he’s getting better and better. I am really pleased with where he is right now.”