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Photograph by Jeffrey Beall
Casual St. Louis Rams fans had two things to enjoy about the team's 2010 playoff near-miss: Sam Bradford's rapid maturation to watch, and Mizzou alum Danario Alexander's reappearance among the living to cheer on. When both things could be watched at the same time, in the same location, great things happened—Alexander was clearly the most talented, dynamic wide receiver on the Rams' roster, and Bradford actually had a downfield target when he was available to play. Alexander's outstanding Week 6 performance, when he caught four balls for 72 yards and a touchdown, and his Week 11 romp—four for 95 against the Broncos—were the moments where it became clear that the team really might compete.
Less than a year later, it looks like Danario Alexander has a fight ahead of him to even make the Rams' regular season roster. His knees—he's had five surgeries on the left one, the latest this past season—haven't healed like the Rams had hoped they would, and his preseason has been less than stellar, though he's continued to show flashes almost every game he plays.
The weird thing is it's not as though the Rams' receivers have gotten much better in the interim—they've just gotten much more crowded. Behind Danny Amendola and preseason-breakout-type Brandon Gibson, the Rams now have veteran Mike Sims-Walker, rookies Greg Salas and Austin Pettis, a strong-looking Donnie Avery, and special-teamer Mardy Gilyard—and it looks like they still might sign Mark Clayton, if he ever proves he's healthy.
Unless the Rams are willing to give up on Gilyard and hand someone else the return job just a year after drafting him in the fourth round, that leaves no room for Alexander, whose only remaining shot involves putting up big numbers in the team's last preseason game. Nobody doubts his ability to produce, but when you can't count on him for even eight games, it's tough to base a game plan on waiting around for his knee.