I can’t think about Greg Jennings without saying his name really slowly in my mind, and picturing him with a broken leg. This is a problem I will overcome one day.
Jennings — as you’re abundantly aware by now due to daily/hourly reminders — will be one of the most coveted free agents next Tuesday, and you’ll begin hearing far too many rumors about him playing everywhere including for your office flag football team Saturday when the negotiating window opens. Much like fellow free agent wideout Mike Wallace, Jennings has widely been connected to the Dolphins and Vikings, because any receiver of note who’s available as a free agent or through trade is connected to the Dolphins and Vikings.
But lately another intriguing possibility has been floated: the Rams.
Let’s operate here under the hypothetical assumption that Danny Amendola walks, and potentially leaves St. Louis to replace Wes Welker in New England (wheee more semi baseless speculation!), and a massive void is then created. That’s always bad, but it could become especially painful in St. Louis where a young quarterback — Sam Bradford — is still, um, young and developing.
Compounding the fear of a vacant wide receiver closet (general managers really do have those) is the departure of Brandon Gibson as a free agent too. That would leave Bradford without one of his equally young and sort of budding receivers, and his handy trusted slot guy. Doom could quickly follow.
But enter Jennings. For both Jennings and Wallace, we’ve been wondering if Miami is ideally suited for the best possible production if the Dolphins can retain Brian Hartline, which is looking likely. But for Jennings — who’s still fast when healthy, just not Wallace fast — St. Louis could become the better destination if the Rams do indeed pursue him following Amendola’s possible exit.
If Jennings is paired with burner Chris Givens, the vertical threat on the opposite side of the field will largely draw the bracket coverage. That happens when defenses remember that Givens tied a rookie record by hauling in a reception of 50 yards or more in five straight games. During that stretch (weeks 4 to 8 this past season), he averaged 29.4 yards per catch. Seriously.
Givens’ longest catch was 65 yards, and he also added two 37 yarders. So he’s quite quick, and that will open up areas in the middle. Which is nice because that’s where Jennings now excels at the age of 29, with his speed diminished.
ESPN’s Matt Bowen (subscription required), analyzed Jennings’ tape during the 2012 season, charting the routes he was asked to run most often, and the imaginary squiggly lines that allowed him to have the greatest success. They were almost exclusively routes where the middle of the field is emphasized. That led Bowen to noting that with his ability in open space, routes which break after 12-15 yards were the most common in Jennings’ arsenal.
He’s smooth in the open field, and he can set up a defender and take advantage of poor angles to the ball. That’s why you throw the underneath crosser or hit Jennings on the slant. His ability after the catch can turn a simple route into an explosive play.
Between Givens and Jennings then, their possession/speed tandem will provide immediate mutual benefit if Amendola walks, with the production of both rising.