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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Young guns bring new energy to offense

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Wednesday, Oct. 13 2004

    At its apex, the Greatest Show on Turf wasn't just about Marshall Faulk, or
    Isaac Bruce, or Torry Holt, or Kurt Warner. It was about all of them - and
    more. Az-Zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl as the No. 3 and No. 4 wide receivers.
    Roland Williams, and then Ernie Conwell, at tight end.

    Make no mistake, Faulk, Bruce and Holt were the money players. Still are. But
    there simply were too many options across the board. You couldn't cover them
    all. And that was the beauty of the offense back in the "glory days."
    Which brings us to the Rams' back-to-back victories over San Francisco and
    Seattle. In those contests, the Rams' seven touchdowns were scored by wide
    receiver Shaun McDonald (two), wide receiver Kevin Curtis (one), running back
    Steven Jackson (one), tight end Brandon Manumaleuna (one), fullback Joey
    Goodspeed (one), and quarterback Marc Bulger (one).

    Since the start of the Rams' 1999 Super Bowl championship season, Faulk, Bruce
    and Holt have scored 159 touchdowns. Until that Oct. 3 San Francisco game, the
    Rams had gone 24 consecutive contests with Faulk, Bruce or Holt scoring at
    least one TD.

    But now, for the first time with Faulk, Bruce and Holt on the roster and
    available to play, the Rams have won back-to-back games with none of the three
    scoring a TD.

    Could it be a sign that the "good old days" are back on offense? Are the Rams
    developing the kind of multiple options that characterized the '99, 2000, and
    2001 squads? (All three of those teams scored 500-plus points.)

    Coach Mike Martz stopped short of such a sweeping assessment. Way short.

    "This is totally different," he said after the Seattle game. "This is just a
    completely different team. We're just trying to find a way to win."

    Not that the youngsters aren't making life easier for the Rams offensively.

    "Some of these young players are stepping to the forefront right now," Martz
    said. "These guys now are taking the load off some of the other players. And as
    they step to the forefront, that makes it easier to manage the game. These
    other guys, now, you've got to account for them."

    Leave it to free safety Aeneas Williams to dream of the possibilities.

    "You have a dual threat at running back," Williams said. "You have four, five
    receivers. Why wouldn't you think that you have the potential to have an
    explosive offense like we did before?"

    The emergence of Dane Looker last season gave the Rams at least a reasonable
    facsimile of Proehl, who signed with Carolina following the 2002 season. Hakim,
    who signed with Detroit after the '01 campaign, has proven harder to replace.
    But McDonald, if he continues to develop, could fill that role both as a
    receiver and punt returner.

    McDonald isn't as elusive as Hakim in the open field, but he may be faster. And
    as a punt returner, McDonald has displayed better ball security than the
    fumble-prone Hakim.

    "When you get Shaun McDonald, Kevin Curtis and Dane Looker - when you get those
    guys involved, and they're making plays in the passing game - that's a
    dangerous situation," Williams said.

    Dangerous for opposing defenses.

    "Because you just can't drop back in 'two-man' coverage, and take Ike and Torry
    and double-team them," Williams said. "You have to account for guys in the
    slot."

    In the past two games, Curtis has moved ahead of Looker on the depth chart as
    the team's No. 3 wide receiver. In three-wide receiver sets, Curtis is on the
    field with Bruce and Holt. Martz has tried to keep Looker involved, because in
    four-wide receiver sets, Looker and McDonald are paired with Bruce and Holt,
    with Curtis sitting.

    But overall, the change has led to more opportunities for the speedier Curtis,
    and a reduced workload for Looker.

    In the 2003 draft, the Rams selected Curtis in the third round and McDonald in
    the fourth in an effort to upgrade their depth at wide receiver.

    "These guys have got terrific speed," Martz said. "Kevin Curtis is the fastest
    guy on the team. He is incredibly fast. And Mac is not very far off."

    That potential went untapped in 2003, because Curtis and McDonald both suffered
    through injury-plagued rookie seasons, combining for only 12 catches for 65
    yards and no TDs.

    Already this season, they've combined for 12 catches for 185 yards and three
    TDs. So how does a coach know when a young receiver is ready to contribute?

    "You don't know, really, until you put 'em on the field in key situations like
    this, where they've got to make a play to win the game," Martz said. "They can
    kind of blend in, make a play during the game, but when they make plays that
    are a major reason why you win a game, then ... everybody gets excited."

    Including the veterans. Bruce called the Seattle game his most exciting victory
    as a Ram, "Just to see the evolution of Shaun McDonald and Kevin Curtis and
    Steven Jackson."

    Faulk also took note of the youngsters' contributions. "That's huge right
    there," he said. "That pumps life into a team."


  2. #2
    adarian_too's Avatar
    adarian_too is offline Registered User
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    Re: Young guns bring new energy to offense

    Quote Originally Posted by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Wednesday, Oct. 13 2004

    Which brings us to the Rams' back-to-back victories over San Francisco and
    Seattle. In those contests, the Rams' seven touchdowns were scored by wide
    receiver Shaun McDonald (two), wide receiver Kevin Curtis (one), running back Steven Jackson (one), tight end Brandon Manumaleuna (one), fullback Joey Goodspeed (one), and quarterback Marc Bulger (one).

    Since there is no logical reason I can see how games 2 & 3 got in between 1, 4 & 5, I am still afraid that someone has the slide show in a mixed up order, but at least I'm prepared to suspend disbelief.

    There is no doubt in my mind that this could mark the turning point in the evolution of the team. Contributions are being made by the full range of talent and positions. Bootlegs by MB; the TE CAN catch; the FB CAN score; the WRs can outrun a D, and either Faulk or Jackson CAN catch or run on the same play. Opposing Ds will have to prepare differently now and Mike has real choices that have been battle tested already.

    Whether it is a fluke or a foothold we will see.

  3. #3
    ZigZagRam's Avatar
    ZigZagRam is offline Registered User
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    Re: Young guns bring new energy to offense

    It's about time we started using the youngins!

  4. #4
    evil disco man's Avatar
    evil disco man is offline Pro Bowl Ram
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    Re: Young guns bring new energy to offense

    Quote Originally Posted by ZigZagRam
    It's about time we started using the youngins!
    Amen. I've been waiting forever for Curtis and McDonald to finally be healthy (at the same time), and now it's time for them to show their stuff. So far, not too shabby.

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