With wide receiver Danny Amendola sidelined for at least another three games, there was understandable skepticism that the Rams' passing offense would be able to be productive with their leading pass-catcher unavailable.
Instead, on the road at Miami, quarterback Sam Bradford completed 26 of 39 passes for 315 yards, spreading the ball around to 10 different receivers. Of the 26 connections, 14 were to wide receivers.
Said coach Jeff Fisher, "Any time you have an injury, somebody steps up. In this case, we've got an entire group that has stepped up. They're interchangeable; the guys know the various positions and Sam's very comfortable. Even though it's by and large a young group, they've worked well together and they're catching the ball consistently and getting to the right place. When Danny comes back, we'll be that much better, but this is some great experience for the younger guys."
It will have to be more of the same for the Rams to have any chance of upsetting the Packers this weekend.
Said offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, “I think that’s what we’re trying to get to. If you only have one or two guys that are contributing, it becomes a little easier to try to take guys away. He (Bradford) is the type of guy that when you put guys in spots, he works with them after practice, gets very comfortable with them, and the ball is going to go to whoever’s open. I think that gets guys excited. ‘Hey, if I get open, I’m going to get the ball.’”
Bradford, who some thought looked too often to Amendola, has embraced the situation and applauds the growth of the younger players, especially rookie Chris Givens.
"I think with the young guys it's just been their ability to pick up the system in such a quick amount of time," Bradford said. Obviously with (Brian) Quick and Givens, they've been thrown in there kind of on short notice. I think they've done a great job, especially Givens, just learning the system, learning his position, knowing where he's supposed to be.
"Then the older guys, Gibby (Brandon Gibson) has just been extremely solid. He never messes up. He's always in the right place. On Sunday he did a great job of getting open any time he was one-on-one. I think just their ability to get open and win has really impressed me the most."
Givens, a fourth-round pick, showed the ability to stretch defenses in training camp with his speed. Although he was rarely on the field with Bradford in preseason games, the Rams tried several downfield shots to him with backups Kellen Clemens and Austin Davis. There were no long receptions, but there were a few close calls and he did draw two pass-interference penalties.
His snaps have increased from 18, 20 and 14 in the first three games to 45, 44 and a team-high 61 against the Dolphins in his next three. Givens has receptions of 52, 51 (for a touchdown) and 61 yards in the last three games becoming the first rookie since Chicago's Willie Gault in 1983 to have a reception of 50 or more yards in three consecutive games.
Asked about Givens' ability, Bradford said, "I think everyone's seen it. He's got tremendous speed. He's a great route runner. He's just got a feel for finding holes, getting behind people. I think the more we've worked together, the more comfortable I've become with him out there and I think that's been pretty apparent the past couple of weeks in the big plays that he's been able to make."
Given that they weren't on the field together often in preseason, Bradford was asked when he thought the timing started to come together.
"I would say it was probably the second or third week, after we had spent a couple of weeks together, especially after he started taking more reps," Bradford said. "Just the more he's been in there at practice, the more we've thrown ... I love him because he's a guy that at practice, after practice, he always wants to throw. He comes and gets me and he's like, 'Hey, I've got this, this and this. Let's get these after practice.'
"If it's not right, he stays until we get it right. We've spent a lot of time together and I think that's one of the reasons that we've developed the chemistry that we have."
Injury update: Left tackle Wayne Hunter missed practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a back injury, and the team will announce his status for Sunday’s game on Friday afternoon. Much could depend on whether he is available to practice Friday. Aside from Rodger Saffold, who is currently sidelined with a knee injury, the only available tackles are Joe Barksdale, who was recently claimed on waivers from the Raiders, and Quinn Ojinnaka, who is truly a guard, and he’s not real good at that.
Don’t forget, the Rams cut Ojinnaka when they claimed guard Shelley Smith on waivers from Houston two days after the first cut to 53 players. Smith has been with the team for almost seven weeks and might be getting closer to getting some playing time. When center Scott Wells returns, Rob Turner is expected tio slide back to left guard. Wells, currently on injured reserve with the designation to return, is eligible to begin practicing next week, and the first game he could play is Nov. 11 in San Francisco.
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who did not practice Wednesday because of a back injury practiced Thursday.