Brandon Gibson has been tossed into the pressure cooker of having to prove himself yet again.
By ANDREW ASTLEFORDFS Midwest
ST. LOUIS –
Brandon Gibson is oblivious to the tectonic shift around him, and that might be good for a guy tossed into the pressure cooker of having to prove himself again. Clean slate. No memories. Just play.
"I try not to worry about it," said Gibson, in his fourth season as a St. Louis Rams wide receiver, when asked about job-security risks as a Billy Devaney/Steve Spagnuolo holdover with a new regime. "They watched film before. I think they saw a few things that could help."
Does that film have insights into other future fortunes? Powerball numbers? Keno drawings? Because the Rams struck gold with a newborn Gibson on Sunday, when the 6-foot, 205-pound Washington State product cradled four catches for 51 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Detroit Lions.
"I'm all for getting help and getting coached," Gibson said. "And so I want to make sure I can do what's best for the team."
Here's what was best for the Rams in Week 1: Gibson chopping his feet for extra yards near the first-down marker like his cleats were flaming coals, showing more spirit in one afternoon than he did throughout most of a ho-hum 2011 season, extending his body like a flying squirrel past cornerback Jonte Green to snag a 23-yard touchdown pass from Sam Bradford that gave the Rams a seven-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
Clean slate? No memories? Just play?
Just produce, baby.
"He comes in everyday and works his butt off," rookie wide receiver Chris Givens said. "He's a technician. That's the biggest thing I learned from him – just how technical to be with my routes so that on game day things are a little bit easier for me."
Thing is, life got harder for Gibson when Givens and first-year wide receiver Brian Quick arrived. Coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead handpicked the pair, so that meant a stronger squeeze on anyone who packed a corner stall at Rams Park last fall. Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Lloyd led the corps with 683 yards and five touchdowns last season, but he jetted to the
New England Patriots in March with former coordinator Josh McDaniels. There was more turnover within the group than a $5-an-hour job hawking value meal No. 3.
Mark Clayton? Declared as a free agent in March and wasn't resigned.
Nick Miller? Cut in March.
Dominique Curry? Cut in May.
Danario Alexander? Cut in August.
Greg Salas? Traded to the Patriots earlier this month.
Austin Pettis? Forced to miss the first two games without pay for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
"I guess we all have a fresh start this year," Gibson said. "That's all I can really go off of. Coaches came in. Obviously, they watch film and try to put guys in good positions to be successful. I think that's what we're doing here."
Gibson was in the right position against the Lions, and that's Step 1 in proving his staying power to the bosses. Consider last year, when he earned 50 or fewer receiving yards in 11 games played. And in two of his previous NFL seasons, he never hauled in more than one touchdown catch. Those numbers would get you a January flight to Hays, Kan., instead of Honolulu.
Still, Sunday wasn't without a smack-your-forehead moment. Those are career crushers if you're not a Fisher Guy. Gibson was flagged for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty late in the first quarter, snuffing a possible scoring drive. He redeemed himself with the Ringling Brothers touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, but his wrists were red from a stinger of a slap.
"He bounced back off the penalty and made the catch," Fisher said. "(He) made a couple good catches, so that was good to see. But he knew he did it (the penalty). Right away, we had a little visit on the sideline and assured it wouldn't ever happen again."
But in all, Fisher wouldn't mind seeing Sunday happen again for Gibson. Multiple times. Little about Rams Park is the same compared to when the wide receiver arrived from the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009. Sometimes, change can be the flame to inspiration's fuse.
Clean slate? No memories? Just play?
Just do enough. Then do more.
You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at email@example.com.