If the Rams manage to make it to the playoffs one year after managing only one victory the previous season, the one player — aside from 2010 No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford — who could be mostly responsible for making that happen is undrafted rookie WR Danario Alexander.
That is, provided his left knee, which has required no fewer than five surgeries, can hold up down the stretch.
"He definitely is a key; nobody else on the team can stretch the field like he can," said one daily team observer of Alexander, who averaged just under 20 yards per catch in his three games played entering Week 13. "He also provides that yards-after-catch element that was lost after Mark Clayton went down for the year.
"But you can't help but be concerned about the five surgeries. It's like every game you can get out of him is a blessing."
Alexander's fifth surgery occurred Oct. 29 — only four weeks before he returned with a flourish with four catches for a team-high 95 yards in the Rams' first road win of the season in Week 12 against Denver and 12 days after a sterling 2010 debut (4-72 and a TD) in a home win over the Chargers.
After his first game back following the surgery, Alexander's knee felt considerably better than it did after his debut against San Diego.
"It felt a whole lot better," Alexander told PFW three days before the Rams' Week 13 game in Arizona. "I felt like I was good to go probably about two weeks after the latest procedure, which was really pretty minor."
The Rams couldn't be blamed, however, for exercising the utmost caution with a player who team insiders can't believe was bypassed in the draft, considering his natural talent and extremely productive career at the University of Missouri.
While compiling prodigious numbers at Mizzou, Alexander became more than a little familiar with Bradford, who was starring for Oklahoma at the same time.
"Sam is a great quarterback," Alexander told PFW. "He's going to do great things in the NFL, and I feel very fortunate to be able to play with him. He throws such a catchable ball."
Alexander also thinks highly of his fellow Rams receivers.
"We have a great relationship," he said. "Everybody brings something a little different to the table."