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Kenny Britt, a go-to Rams receiver, especially wants to go to the playoffs

Kenny Britt, a go-to Rams receiver, especially wants to go to the playoffs
Rams receiver Kenny Britt turns upfield after a reception against Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III on Sept. 25. (Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images)

He is the most experienced player on the Rams’ offense, an eighth-year pro seeking what thus far has proved to be an unattainable goal.

 “Hopefully,” receiver Kenny Britt said. “I’ll get to the playoffs this year.”

Britt has helped the Rams to a promising start.

They are 3-1 and in first place in the NFC West heading into Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills at the Coliseum.

It’s the first of nine games against non-division opponents before the Rams finish the season against the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals.

Like Britt, the Rams are experiencing a postseason drought. They have not been to the playoffs since 2004.

Britt, 28, is determined to end the streak.

"I have responsibilities and try to be a leader," he said, adding, "The guys are doing everything correct. Everyone is coming in on off days, looking at film, taking care of their bodies.

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"You can tell there's determination on this team to get to the playoffs."

The Rams began the season with major questions about a receiving corps that did not undergo a significant upgrade from 2015, when the Rams ranked last in the NFL in offense and passing offense.

They drafted receivers Pharoh Cooper in the fourth round and Michael Thomas in the sixth. Cooper has not played because of a shoulder injury and Thomas has played mainly on special teams.

Through four games, the Rams rank last in offense and 30th in passing offense.

But there have been bright spots.

Brian Quick has been the biggest surprise, catching three touchdown passes. Tavon Austin has one.

But Britt has a team-best 18 receptions and is averaging 15.6 yards per catch.

He also has been a go-to receiver on third downs.

 “He’s been productive. Made some big plays for us,”  Coach Jeff Fisher said. “He has overcome some drops, like the whole group has, but he’s been productive.

"He pushed through — he's fighting through some nagging little injury things. But he shows up. He shows up and he's emotional and he plays hard."

In last weekend's 17-13 victory at Arizona, Britt was targeted four times, had four receptions and averaged 20.5 yards per catch.

In the second quarter, his 34-yard gain on a third-and-12 play helped set up a field goal. He also converted a third down with an 11-yard reception in the third quarter.

"Both mentally and physically, it's as good as I've seen Kenny," offensive coordinator Rob Boras said. "His preparation out here, his focus, and it's carried over.

"He's playing extremely hard, he's made plays for us in every game — and critical plays on third down, which has been our challenge as an offense, to try to stay on the field."

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Britt has remained a threat through multiple knee surgeries.

Fisher was coach of the Tennessee Titans when they selected Britt with the 30th  pick in the 2009 draft out of Rutgers. In his second season, Britt caught 42 passes, nine for touchdowns.

But in 2011 he suffered torn ligaments in his right knee.

He had surgery again on the same knee before the 2012 season and also had an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee.

He caught 45 passes and scored four touchdowns in 2012 but caught only 11 passes and did not score a touchdown in 2013.

The Rams signed him in 2014 and,  reunited with Fisher,  Britt responded with a career-best 48 catches, three for touchdowns. Last season, he averaged 18.9 yards a catch and scored three touchdowns.

Britt sat out off-season workouts after undergoing shoulder and knee surgeries, but he said he has not lost speed and still feels young.

"I've been taking care of my body a lot better," said Britt, who is earning about $4.5 million in the final year of his contract. "The first two or three years in the NFL, you don't really know what to do off the field to take care of your body.

"This is my eighth year and I'm doing better than before."

During training camp, quarterback Case Keenum said that he and Britt had developed “non-verbal communication” that enabled him to anticipate the receiver’s moves. Keenum said this week that they remained on the same wavelength.

Britt concurred.

"Case trusts me out there," he said. "When we need a first down, he trusts me to do it."

With opponents crowding the line of scrimmage to stop running back Todd Gurley, the Rams have been unable to run effectively. But if Austin's production increases and Britt continues his pace, defenses will have to adjust, Boras said.

"We're going to continue to run the ball and we're going to get better running the ball," Boras said. "When they're loading the box, we're going to try to take advantage of it and get the ball out in the perimeter in the pass game and let those guys make some plays."

Like all receivers, Britt said, he wants to score touchdowns.

But a run to the postseason would be even better.

"We're winning," he said, "so it really doesn't matter who gets them as long as we're putting points on the board."

Twitter: @LATimesklein

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