Random Rams: Wide Receiver Mark Clayton Connects with Sam Bradford

by Blaine Grisak
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Prior to the 2017 season, the one year that Los Angeles Rams fans could look to as a year that brought hope was 2010. The Rams drafted Sam Bradford with the first overall pick and we was going to save the franchise from it’s eternal embarrassment since the greatest show on turf. Between 2007 and 2009, the Rams won a total of six games.

This week we’re running a series called Random Rams. This series focuses on random players who found some success with Rams. Yesterday, we looked at Zac Stacy and his 2013 season. Today, we’ll go back a few more years to look at a wide receiver that most fans should remember. His time was short-lived due to injury, but he had his moments.

After drafting Bradford, the priority was to bring in weapons who could help him succeed. If it’s one receiver outside of Danario Alexander (who also deserves a spot on this list), who deserves some recognition, it’s Mark Clayton.

Heading into the 2010 season, the talent at wide receiver was pretty sparse. Torry Holt left the year before to go to Jacksonville leaving the Rams with Danny Amendola, Laurent Robinson, and Brandon Gibson as the top three receivers. The Rams also drafted Mardy Gilyard on day three of the NFL Draft after Bradford. The Rams also had Donnie Avery, but lost him to injury.

With a need at wide receiver, the Rams made a trade. Less than 48 hours after trimming the roster down to 53, the Rams acquired Mark Clayton from the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for late round considerations.

While Clayton never played with Bradford, the two had thrown together with Clayton also going to Oklahoma. The trade just made sense. Clayton was a veteran receiver who was a former first round pick. He’d be able to come in and start right away after the team lost Avery.

Clayton was drafted with the 22nd overall pick of the 2005 draft. After signing TJ Houshmandzadeh, the Ravens didn’t have a need for Clayton and decided to move on. That decision worked out perfectly for the Rams.

Bradford and Clayton had an instant connection. The first overall pick completed 10-of-16 passes intended for Clayton for 119 yards, including a 33 and 39 yard reception. His 119 yards was the fourth best of his career in his first game with the Rams. Said Clayton of Bradford,

“He’s special, he is. As long as offensively we protect him and then on the outside make plays for him, we’re going to be really good.”

Clayton became a favorite target of Bradford. The Rams started the season 2-3, but had back-to-back wins with Clayton having 72 and 85 yards. After the first five games, the Rams could have been 4-1, but a tough break against Arizona and bad officiating against the Raiders led to two losses.

The Oklahoma connection was strong early in Sam Bradford’s career. The most memorable game might have come in Week 4. Clayton had five receptions for 72 yards in a 20-3 win over the Seattle Seahawks. It was the first win against the Seahawks since the wild card game in 2005.

Unfortunately, the Mark Clayton excitement was short lived. In a Week 5 game agains the Detroit Lions, Clayton tore his patella tendon and was done for the year. The injury ended a lot of momentum and he never got back to full health. In 2011 Clayton had three receptions for 26 yards and then retired in 2012.

The injury was a tough break for Clayton. After a disappointing stint in Baltimore, Clayton was coming into his own with Bradford. Clayton was on pace for a career-high 73 receptions for 979 yards. Despite just playing five games, Clayton’s 61.2 receiving yards per game led the team in 2010.

The Rams still ended with a strong season. The team finished 7-9 and played for a wild card spot in the final week of the season. If it wasn’t for losing to Charlie Whitehurst and the Seahawks in Week 17 in Seattle, the Rams would have made the postseason.

It’s hard not to wonder what would have happened if Clayton wouldn’t have gotten hurt. The Rams lost by one point against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and in overtime to the San Francisco 49ers. Would Clayton have made a difference and turned those into wins?

Despite a heartbreaking finish, the 2010 season was fun and Mark Clayton had a lot to do with that.

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