In a few weeks, a couple of months, it may be quickly forgotten. But in the here and now, Brian Quick’s 41-yard catch-and-run symbolizes all that he can be to a Rams offense in need of consistent, big-play receivers.
It shows a quarterback developing trust in a young wide receiver. And perhaps it’s a sign that the light switch has been turned on for the third-year pro from Appalachian State.
For two-plus seasons, the Rams have been working on Quick to use his body and wealth of athletic talent to make the tough catch. To aggressively pursue the contested ball in traffic and come down with it.
And there it was Saturday against Green Bay: a deep in-route, a leap, arms stretching for the ball, veteran Packers cornerback Sam Shields in tight coverage ... and a catch.
“Those are the type of plays that we expect him to make,” quarterback Sam Bradford said. “We’ve seen him make them all during OTAs. All during training camp. I think he’s had a great camp. But for him to go out there (Saturday) and do it in a game — that’s big. I think that’s a big step for our offense.”
As the first player taken in the second round of the 2012 draft, much was expected of Quick. But he has been slow to come around, making the adjustment from a smaller college (Appalachian State) with a limited playbook.
With playing time sparse, Quick managed just 29 catches for 458 yards and four touchdowns over his first two NFL seasons. That makes year three critical for Quick as a Ram and as an NFL player.
“He knows he’s got to pick it up,” wide receivers coach Ray Sherman said. “He knows that. And that’s the thing with young receivers — some guys come along faster than others. We knew this was gonna be a big year for him, and he’s really shown that he’s ready to accept that challenge.”
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During Quick’s first two seasons in the league, the usual practice conversation with Sherman was one-sided and went something like this: “Quickie, do this. Quickie, do that. What about this, Quickie?”
With Sherman doing all the talking.
This season, things have at least reached the point where Quick knows what the mistake is when it happens before Sherman can even get a word in.
“Sometimes, I’ll just look and he’ll say: ‘I got it, Coach. I know,’” Sherman said. “So he knows what he’s doing and what he should do.”
Quick has never been considered a slacker on the practice field, but he’s turned things up a notch, starting with his offseason work at Proactive Sports Performance near Los Angeles.
He ran the hills in Runyon Canyon, worked out on the beach in Malibu at a performance center whose clients include Aaron Rodgers, Colin Kaepernick and Von Miller.
“It was a different atmosphere,” said Quick, who had roamed around to various places for his offseason training in previous years. “I did a lot of training there. We got good work in.”
Sherman has noticed that Quick has become a more mature student of the game, in terms of focus and note-taking in the meeting room, and studying at home.
“He wants to make sure that he does everything the right way,” Sherman said. “I’m talking about depth of routes. I’m talking about landmarks. I’m talking about your motions. He’s really taken it to another level, and that’s what I’m excited about.”
Whether it’s before practice, after practice, or sometimes both, Quick can be found catching balls from the JUGs machine at Rams Park, basically on a daily basis. As a result, drops have been few and far between during camp.
“That’s something I’ve got to do as a receiver,” Quick says. “Perfect my craft and make sure I do the things I need to do.”
The more consistent play from Quick on the practice field has built up trust with Bradford. You can talk all you want about play-calling and the lack of deep balls in the Rams’ offense — if the quarterback doesn’t trust the receiver, he’s not going to throw it deep, or throw it, period.
“I always tell them, you make sure to be where you’re supposed to be,” Sherman said. “So the quarterback will have confidence knowing that you’re gonna be there. That’s the important thing.
“If the quarterback doesn’t have confidence in you, he’s not throwing it to you. Seriously. That’s the way they are.”
And that simple fact, more than even the big catch itself, made Quick’s day Saturday.
“Sam trusted me,” Quick said. “He let it go. That’s the best part ... to have Sam trust me.”
Bradford trusted Quick so much, he came back to him three plays later. On this play, Quick was in the process of getting past Shields on another deep route. Shields saved a touchdown by grabbing onto Quick for a pass interference penalty. The 15-yard flag set up the Rams’ only touchdown of the game.
“It’s night and day with Quickie,” Bradford said. “He’s always been tremendously talented, but I think we’re starting to see him really put everything together.”
Or as coach Jeff Fisher put it: “I believe that he’s crossed the line now. He’s able to take what he’s doing in practice and carry it over to a game.”