Linehan's philosophy limits playing time for Curtis, McDonald
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Oct. 15 2006
Nothing more dramatically illustrates the difference in offensive approach
between first-year Rams head coach Scott Linehan and Mike Martz, his
predecessor, than the whittled-down numbers of Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald.
After five games last year, Curtis and McDonald -- the Rams' No. 3 and No. 4
wide receivers behind Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt -- had combined for 47
receptions and 547 yards. Martz favored multiple-wideout sets, and there was
plenty of work for all.
After five games this year, Curtis and McDonald have mustered only 14 catches
and 120 yards. Linehan, who leans far more heavily on the running game, had
deployed four wide receivers only 16 times before last Sunday's game at Green
Curtis (three catches, 21 yards) and McDonald (two catches, 30 yards) were on
the field together 14 times vs. the Packers, as Linehan sought to exploit Green
Bay's young safeties.
Still, Curtis is on a 16-game pace for 29 receptions and 211 yards, a huge drop
from his 2005 production of 60 catches and 801 yards. McDonald projects to 16
catches and 173 yards; he had 46 receptions and 523 yards in '05.
"They certainly have not done anything to not deserve a chance to play,"
Linehan said. "It's just that we utilize a number of personnel groups, and you
can only get 11 guys out there at a time. . . . If we think (using multiple
wideouts is) something that can help us going into a game, we have the luxury
of the depth at receiver to be able to do that."
First, though, Linehan wants to make sure that he has plenty of protection on
the field for quarterback Marc Bulger and sufficient blocking for running back
Steven Jackson. He does that by using more "base" formations.
Linehan's formula is paying off for Jackson -- who is leading the NFL in yards
from scrimmage (runs and receptions) and is tied with San Francisco's Frank
Gore for No. 1 in rushing yards -- and for Bulger, who has been sacked 11
times, compared with 20 in the first five games last season.
Most important, the Rams are 4-1 and a half-game ahead of Seattle -- Sunday's
foe at the Edward Jones Dome -- in the NFC West. A year ago, they stood 2-3.
"I definitely wouldn't mind being on the field with more chances to make
plays," McDonald said. "But we're winning games, so it doesn't matter who gets
Still, he acknowledged that at times, "you feel like you're out of the game
because you've been on the sideline for so long. You've just got to stay
focused and wait for your opportunities."
Curtis, who has been in for more snaps than McDonald because he's used in
three-wideout sets, said he had "no complaints."
"Actually, I feel like I'm playing quite a bit," he added. "I might not be
getting my hands on the ball as much, but I'm getting plenty of opportunities
to get in there and make a difference in some way, whether it's blocking or
it's running a route to open something up. . . .
"The biggest thing is, if every guy does his job, then we're going to win
games. And as long as we're winning, it doesn't matter if I catch two balls or
five. I really mean that."
Like Martz, Linehan calls the plays on offense. So far, he's ordered runs 43.6
percent of the time. In the 23-20 win at Green Bay, he struck a perfect
balance: 30 runs and 30 passes.
Martz's run percentage in the first five games in '05 was 32.5 percent. When
Martz contracted endocarditis, an infection of a heart valve, Joe Vitt took
over for the last 11 games, with offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild calling
The season ended with the Rams running on 37.0 percent of their snaps. And a
Despite their emphasis on wins over stats, Curtis and McDonald could be headed
toward a more tangible loss than mere individual numbers. Both will be
unrestricted free agents after the season for the first time in their four-year
Back-to-back seasons of impressive production would enhance their value in the
market; conversely, a major downturn might cost them millions.
"You can't really control a lot of that, so I don't try to focus too much on
it," said Curtis, 28. "Being a professional, you've got a job to do when you're
out there, and my biggest focus is on that."
McDonald, 25, said: "It's just something you can't really worry about."
The Rams probably will be more interested in re-signing Curtis, who is viewed
as the eventual heir apparent to Bruce, who will be 34 heading into next
season. McDonald conceded that while he's benefited from his exposure to Bruce
and Holt, he'd likely get more playing time elsewhere.
"I'm definitely happy to play with those guys, because you learn a lot every
day just watching them," McDonald said. "But at a certain point, you want to
get on the field and show what you can do. When the time comes, I'll probably
look for the best opportunity."
Re: Linehan's philosophy limits playing time for Curtis, McDonald
I always enjoyed watching the WRs we had during the Martz era. I always dreaded watching out TE's. I like the new Linehan approach more protection of the QB, do not turn the ball over, run the ball more and try winning the time of possession. IMO any more then three good WRs is a waist when you start trying to involve the TE and running game. I would like to see us resign Curtis and fill the 4th WR with a young prospect either a late round WR or some one cheap. We will have more areas of concern then a fourth WR next off-season. I like what we are doing this year and IMO we will be in a position to improve this team even more next year. Curtis and Little are going to be the only ones we need to try to lock up. The Offense is set at RB, WR, FB, TE, OT, C, WR, and QB. The only thing that may need upgraded is Guard. The Defense has two good LBs we need one more. The DL and CB could use an upgrade and as well. We have a lot of numbers at CB but none of those CBs could we call a shutdown CB.
From what I have seen the following is my opinion on what we will need to upgrade the most next off-season after signing Curtis and Little.
1. Guard (will help running game and QB)
2. DL (will help protect against the running game)
3. LB (Chillar is not the answer)
4. CB (we have numbers we donít have a shut down corner) I would like to see us get a good veteran like we did with Chavous at safety and hope a younger CB develops.
I am excited about this year but IMO we should be even better next year.
Sorry if I am a little off the subject.
Re: Linehan's philosophy limits playing time for Curtis, McDonald
Lets keep mcdonald he's a big part of the rams and I wouldn't want to see him go