Originally posted on Rams Herd  |  Last updated 10/27/12
Brandon Gibson has been a lightning rod for Rams fans since his 16-target (5-catch) debut in 2009, in which he showed equal parts playmaking and back-breaking ability. Three years later, the offensive coordinator has flipped two times, the Rams have had two draft picks in the top three, but little has essentially changed in his game. He has near-perfect performances in practice, he has earned the trust of coaches and his quarterback, but in the game's biggest moments, the ball too often finds its way from his hands to the ground.  After two key drops in a close game against Green Bay, is the glass finally empty of optimism on Brandon Gibson? The RamsHerd Writers weigh in. Paul Petruska: The Rams Will Improve When Gibson Drops On The Depth Chart! After watching Brandon Gibson drop his second 4th down pass of the season, I have finally reached a conclusion. As long as Brandon Gibson is our number one receiver, we will not improve on offense. Before anyone starts jumping up and down about his touchdown catch in Week 1 or the incredible one handed catch in Week 6, I am not suggesting they cut him. Brandon Gibson has proven that he can play in the NFL, but I think he should play as a backup to better players. I have seen enough to say the Brandon Gibson does not have the skills to be a number one receiver. He can’t create separation when pressed, and he has inconsistent hands. I believe I can prove both statements. I will start with easiest statement to prove. According to Pro Football Focus, Brandon Gibson had a 13.1% drop rate in 2010 with 8 dropped passes. PFF looked at the numbers again in 2011 and Gibson was the number 87 of 91 receivers with respect to drop percentage. He had an 18.18 % drop rate. When PFF looked at dropped passes for the last three years, once again Brandon Gibson in the top 10 for drop rate. He was number 5 with a drop rate of 12.77%. I do not think a reasonable person can dispute that Brandon Gibson is not a guy that the Rams can rely on for making the catch that he should make. I am unaware of any stat that shows how much separation a receiver gets when he catches a ball. Therefore, I will use circumstantial evidence to prove that Brandon Gibson cannot get adequate separation. First, we have the two fourth down drops this year. On both, the cornerback was so close that he was able to get his hands in to at least interfere. What about yards after the catch? He has 51 yards after the catch this year. With 25 receptions, this means he is getting 2 extra yards per catch. To put this in perspective, he is number 152 looking at total yards after the catch. The guys in the top 10 have between 180 and 409 yards after the catch. Most importantly, let’s look at the red zone. If you look at film, it is fairly obvious why we can’t score in the red zone. On a short field, our receivers can’t get open. Brandon Gibson is example 1A. On a short field, safeties can be in the box to help stop the run because the back line of the end zone is the ultimate deep defender. Also, a cornerback can press without remorse. Brandon Gibson has exactly two red zone touchdowns while with the Rams and they both came in 2010. Until someone steps up and proves they are better than Brandon Gibson on this team, we will continue to see red zone problems and have an inconsistent offense. I have reached a point, where I am ready to force someone into that position now. Playing Brandon Gibson right now is similar to placing a band aid over a cut that needs stitches. It might look better, but the cut will continue to bleed. Tim Shields: Bad Technique Sinks Gibson I didn't think he was going to make this team to begin with. He was a 5th round pick, who was overdrafted by the Eagles, traded here just to sure up a banged up WR corps and somehow now we are here where he is our "number 1" receiver. The significance of the 4th down play wasn't the drop. In fact, I don't think he actually did drop the ball. I believe the defender reached in and made a play on it. However, what was alarming to me is that our "number 1" receiver couldn't create separation against a free safety in one-on-one coverage. Should go without saying that a true number 1 receiver shouldn't ever be given man coverage against a Free Safety. Since he was, that is an indication of what other teams think of him. But I digress; the real problem with this play in my opinion is his route. He was too fast to run his route.He's got man, he should foot fire, jab opposite, plant and burn it. He is too fast with the first two on that list and that is why Burnett is able to make that play. Burnett is never threatened outside, never has to flip the hips, he just reading and waiting. Will Horton: Gibson's Improvement Overshadowed by High-profile Drops Brandon Gibson reminds me of a Todd Pinkston type receiver - a solid pro who doesn't excel at any one thing, and is always going to be remembered for the catches he doesn't make rather than for the ones he does. I will say that I believe Gibson is a worker who is improving his game each year. The three-year stats Paul cites ignore a trend toward improvement in each area - catch rate (currently near 70%), drop rate, and yards per catch. Also, there are enough similar competitors at the position that his playing time is not just a gift or a blind spot of the coaching staff. He is earning his reps through an understanding of the playbook and the amount of trust placed in him by Sam. That said, if he's going to earn those high-leverage plays, he absolutely has to come down with those throws. It's often said of the great clutch hitters in baseball that "the game slows down for them." Gibson may be improving his fundamentals, but is the game getting any slower for him? He won't be able to silence the criticism until it does.
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