<
>

Rams getting early YAC results

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The sight of St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook running free through the Arizona Cardinals secondary was an odd one for anyone who has followed the team's recent history.

Open receivers and pass catchers running for long periods of time with the ball in their hands after a catch also hasn't been a common trend.

Last week against the Cardinals, the Rams found themselves with plenty of opportunities to find extra yards after a completion.

In fact, the Rams' 180 yards after catch was the fifth most in the league in Week 1 and the second most for the team since quarterback Sam Bradford arrived in 2010.

Perhaps the Rams' effective running after the catch should come as no surprise after the team invested heavily in Cook and first-round receiver Tavon Austin to help bolster a group that finished 22nd in the league in yards after catch a season ago.

“Well, I think obviously when you upgrade the speed like we did, I think you expect that," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "Again, it’s important, the hidden yards that show up."

Hidden yards were there in abundance for the Rams, with Cook leading the charge. Of his franchise record for a tight end 141 receiving yards, 70 came after making the catch. That total was the highest among tight ends last week and sixth in the league. Running back Daryl Richardson chipped in with 38 more.

To put that in perspective, consider receiver Chris Givens led the Rams in YAC a year ago and he finished with 286 total. After one game, Cook is already almost a quarter of the way to that total.

In this year's edition of the Rams' offense, it's been made clear that though they will look to take their shots down the field, players like Austin and Cook are best utilized in the short and intermediate areas where they can make something happen after the catch. That also allows Bradford to get the ball out quick and, theoretically, have a higher completion rate.

After Cook's breakthrough game last week, Atlanta will probably look to find ways to take him out of the game plan which, if all goes according to plan, could create openings for a big day from the likes of Austin and Givens.

“Teams are going to have to look at who they want to try to stop, who they’re going to game plan for, but you can only double so many people," Bradford said. "If they want to double Cook this week, that’s going to leave a lot of singles (coverage) out there for Chris, Tavon, ‘A.P.’ (Austin Pettis), (running backs Isaiah) Pead, Daryl. I think you’re going to see the ball spread around quite a bit this year.”

Early indications about the offensive approach in 2013 would lead one to think there will be plenty of emphasis on continuing to complete quick passes underneath and let the play makers make plays. It's been a long time since the Rams have had the players in place capable of actually doing that, but after one week, the move toward putting a priority on YAC has paid immediate dividends.

"It’s something we talk a lot about, and again because of our speed, we’ve been able to upgrade it," Schottenheimer said. "But, we’ve got to continue to do that.”