Key Rams for 2015: Tight end Lance Kendricks

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Before the St. Louis Rams report for training camp next week, we're taking a look at five players returning to the team who will need to provide more if the team is going to be a playoff contender in 2015.

We wrap up the series with tight end Lance Kendricks.

Why more is needed: Unlike the other players mentioned in this series, Kendricks isn't a youngster looking to find his way in the league nor is he a guy heading into a contract year with something to prove. Quite the opposite, in fact. Kendricks signed a four-year deal worth about $18.5 million in the offseason, a hefty price to pay for a player who has never exceeded 42 catches, 519 receiving yards or five touchdowns in a season. But the Rams view Kendricks as an integral part of their offense because of his versatility. Kendricks has worked in multiple roles, occasionally lining up at fullback in addition to normal duties at tight end. Upon agreeing to re-sign with the Rams, Kendricks made it known he took a little less money to stay in St. Louis rather than depart for the Atlanta Falcons. He did so in part because the Rams let him know that they intend to get him more involved in the passing game, something Kendricks sought when he hit the open market. Now, it's up to the Rams to find ways to get Kendricks more opportunities to make plays and for Kendricks to take advantage of those chances. Kendricks struggled with drops early in his career, which might be a primary reason his numbers have never gone beyond those listed above, but he's shown improvement in those areas since. For a Rams offense that has struggled to produce, more from Kendricks would be a positive step in that direction.

What the Rams need from him: Kendricks isn't going to be asked to carry the freight for the offense as a pass-catcher or even as a blocker, but the Rams simply need him to be productive in both areas in order for the offense to become what the team envisions. The offense figures to feature a run-heavy approach that will have Kendricks doing plenty of blocking. He's improved each year in that regard but will need to be even more efficient (along with the line) for the run game to take the next step. In terms of receiving, something similar to Kendricks' career-best numbers -- say, 50 catches, 500-600 receiving yards and five to seven touchdowns -- would offer a solid return on investment.

Outlook: Kendricks has quietly been one of the Rams' most consistent performers offensively. The question now is whether he can take the next step to produce in the passing game. There's a bit of a chicken or the egg thing happening with Kendricks where it's fair to wonder whether the Rams have given him fewer opportunities because he hasn't excelled in that area or if he hasn't excelled in that area because he hasn't had the chances to do so. Regardless, it doesn't seem like it's asking too much for Kendricks to offer the kind of production mentioned above. The question will be whether he will actually get the chance to do so or if those were empty promises made in an effort to keep Kendricks in St. Louis.