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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
    Re: Young guns bring new energy to offense

    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.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Young guns bring new energy to offense

      It's about time we started using the youngins!

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Young guns bring new energy to offense

        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.

        Comment

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        • RamDez
          Curtis excels in place of injured Bruce
          by RamDez
          Curtis excels in place of injured Bruce
          By Bill Coats
          Of the Post-Dispatch
          Sunday, Jan. 16 2005

          ATLANTA - Second-year wide receiver Kevin Curtis, who played in only four games
          in an injury-plagued rookie year and didn't catch his first pass this season
          until the third game, was thrust into the NFL playoff spotlight Saturday night.

          Veteran Isaac Bruce was a late scratch for the Rams' NFC semifinal game against
          the Atlanta Falcons. Curtis started in his place, and he was the team's leading
          receiver in a 47-17 loss. He had seven receptions for 128 yards and a
          touchdown.

          Curtis' impact was felt early. On the Rams' fifth play, quarterback Marc Bulger
          found Curtis on the right side, and his sprint to the end zone completed a
          57-yard scoring play that made it 7-7.

          Despite his third big game in a row, Curtis took little solace after the Rams'
          season came to a crushing conclusion.

          "It doesn't really take the place of losing a big football game," he said.
          "It's not the way you want it to end."

          Bruce had been bothered by a hip injury late in the regular season, and he
          suffered what originally was described as a groin pull last weekend in the
          Rams' 27-20 first-round victory in Seattle. Coach Mike Martz later described it
          as a stomach-muscle problem.

          Bruce declined to speak with reporters after Saturday night's defeat. But
          according to a Rams official, Bruce tested the injury a couple of hours before
          kickoff at the Georgia Dome and deemed it too sore to play.

          Curtis acknowledged that sliding into Bruce's spot carried stress.

          "Oh, yeah, it's a lot of pressure," Curtis said. "Obviously, you never want
          Isaac out of a game; it hurts. I just tried to go in and be a decent
          replacement for him."

          With Curtis lining up opposite Torry Holt with the first unit, Shaun McDonald
          and Dane Looker moved into the Nos. 3 and 4 wideout slots. McDonald had four
          catches for 37 yards, and Looker, who hadn't seen much action other than on
          special teams, latched onto three passes for 38 yards. Holt had two catches for
          42 yards.

          "It is nice to get back in the lineup and catch a couple of balls," Looker
          said. "But it's awful when you lose. ... All week in practice we knew that
          Isaac was questionable; he didn't take many reps in practice. You know
          something's really wrong with him when he doesn't play, because he's as
          competitive a guy as I've ever seen and he's as tough a football player as I've
          ever seen."

          While emphasizing that losing Bruce was a blow, Bulger said: "But that's the
          nature of the beast. It happens, and you have to move on from it." ...
          -01-16-2005, 03:47 AM
        • RamWraith
          Backups boost passing game
          by RamWraith
          By Bill Coats
          ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
          09/15/2005

          As he soared for Marc Bulger's second-quarter pass in the end zone Sunday, Kevin Curtis knew that the ball and ***** strong safety Tony Parrish would arrive simultaneously, and that it wouldn't be pleasant.

          Sure enough, Parrish hammered Curtis, knocking the ball away and leaving the Rams' wide receiver stunned. But Curtis hauled himself off the turf and back into the fray.

          "I was a little dizzy for a second," he said, "but I was fine."

          Curtis also suffered a dislocated ring finger on his right hand in the opening minutes and a slightly sprained ankle in the second half. Yet he persevered, winding up with seven catches for 63 yards. He assured that none of his assorted dings would hinder him Sunday, when the Rams play at Arizona.

          "I'm good to go," said Curtis, a 5-foot-11, 186-pound speedster from Utah State.

          The continuing emergence of Curtis and fellow third-year wideout Shaun McDonald - he also made seven catches, for 73 yards, in the Rams' 28-25 loss to the ***** - not only adds to coach Mike Martz's arsenal, but also removes some of the burden from first-teamers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt.

          After combining for 14 catches and 75 yards as rookies in 2003, both young wideouts had breakthrough seasons last year. McDonald, 24, had 37 receptions for 394; Curtis, 27, caught 32 passes for 421 yards.

          "Both these guys can start just about anywhere," Martz said. "They're playing at a high level. They're a terrific, terrific addition to what we do offensively."

          Bulger launched a franchise-record 56 passes Sunday, which, on the surface, would appear to be a wide receiver's dream come true. But as Curtis noted, the circumstances behind that flurry of tosses weren't desirable.

          "Not when you have to throw, because that usually means that you're losing," he said. "Definitely, as a receiver, you like it when they put the ball up a lot. But when you're in a situation like that, it's not always ideal because you're trying to come from behind."

          The Rams charged back after lagging 28-9 early in the third quarter, and Curtis and McDonald were Bulger's main targets during the rally. Curtis had five catches for 49 yards and McDonald had four, also for 49 yards, from that point on. Holt, the leading receiver on the day (10 catches for 125 yards) did most of his damage in the first half.

          The season-opening defeat, particularly against a team that went 2-14 last year, has steeled the team's resolve for the outing against the Cardinals, Curtis stressed.

          "Any time you come off a loss, you're eager to just get back out on the field," he said. "You kind of have that bad taste in your mouth that you want to get out and have the good feeling...
          -09-16-2005, 04:58 AM
        • RamWraith
          Linehan's philosophy limits playing time for Curtis, McDonald
          by RamWraith
          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
          Bay.

          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
          what."

          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."
          ...
          -10-14-2006, 09:19 AM
        • HUbison
          Curtis, McDonald Make Rams More Dangerous
          by HUbison
          Curtis, McDonald Make Rams More Dangerous

          By Nick Wagoner
          Senior Writer

          Ever since the 1999 Rams emerged on the scene as the “Greatest Show on Turf,” they have been known for their two outstanding receivers.

          The combination of Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt might be one of the best the league has ever seen over a five-year span, but the dynamic duo might be on its way to becoming the NFL’s most explosive barbershop quartet.

          Ask anyone around Rams Park these days the biggest reason for optimism heading into this season and the answer will invariably involve the myriad possibilities of the offense. Those possibilities might not be so endless were it not for the emergence and development of the perfect compliments to the St. Louis version of Batman and Robin.

          Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald didn’t just arrive on the scene last season; they ran through it like world-class sprinters hopped up on Red Bull. Ask the Seattle Seahawks what they remember about their first meeting with the Rams last season and Nos. 83 and 84 will probably be mentioned followed by a slew of words that aren’t suitable for print.

          “I am real excited about the receivers, Kevin (Curtis), (Shaun) McDonald, everybody,” coach Mike Martz said. “It brings back a lot of memories from some of the guys we had in the past. They are just playing now. That’s when it’s fun is when you can come out here and do something and they know exactly what to do. You just start moving guys around in stuff we haven’t done in a while. You give them some creativity in their shifts and their moves and they are just like robots. They line up in man to man coverage and have different ways on a particular route to beat a guy.”

          In fact, the memories came rushing back to Martz so quickly that he goofed up on one of the opening days of training camp, asking “Trent” to take the team out of the huddle. Of course, by Trent he was referring to Trent Green, but he was actually talking to quarterback Marc Bulger.

          Excuse Martz if he is having flashbacks to the days when Az-zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl flanked Bruce and Holt in catching passes from an accurate quarterback with a quick release. Substitute Curtis and McDonald for Hakim and Proehl and Bulger for Green and the ingredients are in place for an offensive tour de force in St. Louis.

          The Rams spent the better part of a year waiting for Curtis and McDonald to get with the system. Unfortunately, both suffered through miserable, injury-plagued rookie seasons.

          Curtis played in four games in 2003, missing the first five games of the season with a broken fibula. McDonald played in eight games, but suffered a thumb injury that kept him out for four weeks. Those injuries didn’t necessarily keep Curtis and McDonald out for the whole season, but they might as well have.

          The injuries even slowed down Curtis...
          -08-02-2005, 10:00 AM
        • Nick
          Curtis, McDonald Make Rams More Dangerous - Wagoner
          by Nick
          Curtis, McDonald Make Rams More Dangerous
          By Nick Wagoner
          Senior Writer

          Ever since the 1999 Rams emerged on the scene as the “Greatest Show on Turf,” they have been known for their two outstanding receivers.

          The combination of Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt might be one of the best the league has ever seen over a five-year span, but the dynamic duo might be on its way to becoming the NFL’s most explosive barbershop quartet.

          Ask anyone around Rams Park these days the biggest reason for optimism heading into this season and the answer will invariably involve the myriad possibilities of the offense. Those possibilities might not be so endless were it not for the emergence and development of the perfect compliments to the St. Louis version of Batman and Robin.

          Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald didn’t just arrive on the scene last season; they ran through it like world-class sprinters hopped up on Red Bull. Ask the Seattle Seahawks what they remember about their first meeting with the Rams last season and Nos. 83 and 84 will probably be mentioned followed by a slew of words that aren’t suitable for print.

          “I am real excited about the receivers, Kevin (Curtis), (Shaun) McDonald, everybody,” coach Mike Martz said. “It brings back a lot of memories from some of the guys we had in the past. They are just playing now. That’s when it’s fun is when you can come out here and do something and they know exactly what to do. You just start moving guys around in stuff we haven’t done in a while. You give them some creativity in their shifts and their moves and they are just like robots. They line up in man to man coverage and have different ways on a particular route to beat a guy.”

          In fact, the memories came rushing back to Martz so quickly that he goofed up on one of the opening days of training camp, asking “Trent” to take the team out of the huddle. Of course, by Trent he was referring to Trent Green, but he was actually talking to quarterback Marc Bulger.

          Excuse Martz if he is having flashbacks to the days when Az-zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl flanked Bruce and Holt in catching passes from an accurate quarterback with a quick release. Substitute Curtis and McDonald for Hakim and Proehl and Bulger for Green and the ingredients are in place for an offensive tour de force in St. Louis.

          The Rams spent the better part of a year waiting for Curtis and McDonald to get with the system. Unfortunately, both suffered through miserable, injury-plagued rookie seasons.

          Curtis played in four games in 2003, missing the first five games of the season with a broken fibula. McDonald played in eight games, but suffered a thumb injury that kept him out for four weeks. Those injuries didn’t necessarily keep Curtis and McDonald out for the whole season, but they might as well have.

          The injuries even slowed down Curtis and McDonald...
          -08-18-2005, 01:59 PM
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