By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Sunday, Aug. 29 2004

While injury and personnel questions have swirled around almost every other
position on the Rams roster, all is calm at wide receiver.

The quarterbacks throw the football, the wide receivers run and get it. It's
that simple for what is shaping up as one of the league's deepest receiving
corps.

"All of them can line up, and all of them can play," wide receivers coach Henry
Ellard said. "It's a neat situation to have guys that have the kind of talent
they have."

Receivers Kelvin Kight, Derek McCoy, Brian Sump and Michael Coleman were cut by
the Rams over the past three weeks. They never really had a chance.

Not with Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Dane Looker, Kevin Curtis, Mike Furrey and
Shaun McDonald on the roster. Three games into the exhibition season, they're
the only wide receivers who have caught a pass for the Rams. And barring
injury, it'll be the same way in the regular season.

Quarterback Chris Chandler, entering his 17th NFL season, calls the Rams' depth
of talent at wide receiver "as good as I've ever seen. Starting with the two
big guys, and then from there on, you look at everyone else we have: Mac,
Furrey, Kevin. Dane is as solid as they come inside."

The two "big guys," of course, are Bruce and Holt. They have formed one of the
league's better wide receiver tandems over the past five seasons.

"Isaac's age-defying," Looker said. "I don't know how he does it. I guess he's
in his 30s, but he still plays like he's 22 or 23. So I'm not sure if he'll
ever get too old to play this game. He's in phenomenal shape. But he works at
it. He's always in the weight room working out extra, and stretching, and
working on his flexibility.

"And Torry's just out there with so much energy, and I think that's what fuels
him. Torry's out there having fun with the game, and he stays young that way,
too."

Bruce, who turns 32 in November, has looked particularly frisky this preseason.
Holt, 28, showed what he brings to the table with a seven-catch, 143-yard
performance Friday against Washington.
But at the risk of taking them for granted, Bruce and Holt are givens. What
could set this receiving corps apart is the development of the guys behind
them: Looker, Curtis, McDonald, and Furrey.

"There's not too many teams in the league that have as much depth as we do
right now," Looker said. "We can plug guys in about any position and we're
ready to go.

"You have Kevin with a lot of speed. Shaun, with his quickness and his moves. I
play more of a third-down situation. Mike's kind of a mixture of everybody.
He's got speed; he's got quickness; he's tough."

Last year at this time, Curtis was out with a broken leg, McDonald was worn
down from training camp, and Looker and Furrey were unproven.

But Looker emerged to finish third on the Rams in receptions (47), receiving
yards (495) and touchdown catches (three) last season.

"Dane's solid," Ellard said. "You don't have to worry about Dane because he's
going to be where he needs to be, when he needs to be there."

Furrey played enough last season to finish with 20 catches, and has quietly had
a good camp.

"You can rely on Mike," Ellard said. "He's going to play fast. He's going to
make the tough catch inside. He's our utility guy; he can play pretty much
every position."

By every position, Ellard meant split end (Holt's position); flanker (Bruce's
spot); or either of the slot positions in the Rams' three- and four-wide
receiver sets.

In terms of pass catching, McDonald has had the most impressive preseason, with
eight catches for 170 yards. At his best, he looks like Az-Zahir Hakim without
the fumbles: small, quick, elusive, and dangerous in the open field.

But McDonald has struggled with his consistency, dropping more passes than he
should in practice, and occasionally missing sight adjustments, or hot reads,
when the opposing team is blitzing.

"Playing with that consistency, week in and week out, is not an easy thing to
do," Ellard said. "It comes with time."

Finally rounding into form from the broken leg, Curtis was given the better
part of a week off prior to the Kansas City game because of shin splint
problems.

"He was just exhausted," Ellard said. "We backed him off a little bit, and he
seemed to respond well."