ST. LOUIS (AP) -Fourteen years ago, the St. Louis Rams invested a second-round draft pick in Memphis wide receiver Isaac Bruce.
The big-play contributions of Donnie Avery, a second-rounder this year and like Bruce from a non-BCS school, has made moving on a lot easier after Bruce was released in a salary cap move.
``Whenever they dial up my number,'' Avery said Wednesday, ``I try to do some things.''
The former Houston standout has used his 4.24 40-yard dash speed to stretch defenses and pile up the catches that used to go to Bruce, now with the 49ers. In the last three games, Avery has five receptions of 35 or more yards.
Avery has often thrived when the opposition decides to double-team seven-time Pro Bowler Torry Holt, much as Holt did at the start of his career when he benefited from extra attention on Bruce. While Avery totaled 14 catches for 291 yards, a 20.8-yard average, and two touchdowns in three games this month, Holt was held to 11 catches for 102 yards and no scores.
one-on-one coverage with a rookie and they'll double Torry,'' quarterback Marc Bulger said. ``Hopefully, Donnie starts to get the attention and then we get singled up on Torry and we'll take advantage.''
Holt leads the Rams in receptions, totaling 26 with a 11.1-yard average. But Holt, who leads the NFL in receptions and receiving yards since 2000 and is working on eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, has no 100-yard games this year.
``When you have two guys running with you, it's hard to get open,'' coach Jim Haslett said.
Easier for Avery, who averages 16.9 yards overall on 20 catches with two touchdowns.
``Obviously, they're paying attention to Torry,'' Avery said. ``I don't know what their schemes are, but whatever they call, I'm just trying my best to make the play.''
It was a bit of a surprise when Avery was the first wide receiver taken in the draft, mostly because of his school, but his speed made him the Rams' choice. He's blossomed in recent weeks after being hampered by injuries in training camp and in the preseason, also taking advantage of available playing time when Drew Bennett was sidelined with a broken leg in the opener.
``With his speed,'' Bulger said, ``You can make an impact right away.''
tude after Linehan was put on notice by team owner Chip Rosenbloom, Avery sprinted for a 37-yard score on his first carry of the season.
His 43-yard grab in the final minute at Washington helped the Rams win in Jim Haslett's first game as coach, setting up Josh Brown's deciding field goal as time expired. The route was the same play that Bruce scored on to beat the Titans in the 2000 Super Bowl, even with the same awareness to peel back for an underthrown ball.
``Obviously he's got a ways to go just like everybody else,'' Haslett said. ``He made mistakes last week but I think he shows the ability he can make big plays and has better hands than people gave him credit for coming out.''
Avery said the Rams have ``the biggest playbook out there,'' adding that offensive coordinator Al Saunders has told him if he's confused, just to take off on a deep route.
``It's about studying, getting ready for an exam. That's how I look at it,'' Avery said. ``It can be confusing at times.''
But he's confident the big plays will keep coming.
``I wasn't in a big conference, so everybody didn't know I could do what I'm doing right now,'' Avery said. ``I know I can do it.''

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