The Road to 53: Mardy Gilyard can’t avoid the sophomore slump

The clock strikes midnight for Mardy Gilyard, this year’s Cinderella story in Rams camp.

Just comparing stats between two young mid-round picks, something doesn’t add up. Player A caught more passes this preseason than any other wideout; Player B caught one ball for six yards. Player A got nearly 80% of kick return duties; Player B had a few fair catches on his resume. But the stats clearly don’t tell the whole story, as Player A – Mardy Gilyard – was released by the Rams today while Player B – Austin Pettis – can breathe a little easier, still hopeful of making the final roster.

Reading between the lines, the Rams’ coaches put Gilyard on a fast track, knowing that he wasn’t McDaniels’ choice at receiver, giving him every opportunity during the shortened preseason to make a positive impression, and to earn a place on the team. And he did a lot right to earn as many opportunities as he did. However, he barely got any reps at all with Sam Bradford and the first teamers, in practice or on gameday, showing how steeply the odds were stacked against him. Meanwhile, Pettis got more time in practice with the first string offense, but appears to have been put on the shelf for more work and a longer evaluation.

The pattern is predictable. In high school, in college, and now in the pros, Gilyard has dealt with serious challenges and setbacks in his second year. This year you can point to the Lockout, or his stormy offseason that reportedly included a trade request and skipping the player-organized practices to rehab his wrist. Or you can point to his maddening capacity for putting the ball on the ground at highly visible times – his first kickoff return of the preseason, and his first punt return of his final audition, to name two.

Still, though, Mardy came to work this year, and looked much more like a pro receiver than a year ago at this time. If not for the crunch of young talent on the St. Louis roster, he would probably have survived this weekend’s cuts. As it stands, the best player and first NFLer to come out of Flagler Palm Coast high school in Florida is currently on the street, looking for work.

He may not have to look for long. Another receiver-poor team — perhaps in Carolina, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, or a reunion with Pat Shurmur in Cleveland — could be quick to give him a second chance. 

Or, in a bit of irony, he could stick with another team in the NFC West and come back to haunt the Rams.

Mardy Gilyard released by the Rams. Seems I was wrong about him. Still, if I’m Niners I give him a look over any of their 6th WR candidates.