The Rams and Ronald Curry: an analysis

The Rams’ post-draft offseason moves have been modest talent acquisitions, few of them designed to create major headlines — with the notable exception of the still-puzzling decision to drop Pisa Tinoisamoa. However, this latest move, acquiring Ronald Curry for back-of-the-DT-rotation Orien Harris, could actually provide significant impact on the team’s offense.

Ronald Curry in the silver and blackCurry is a converted college quarterback who has developed into a reasonably reliable target — albeit on some of the worst offenses the NFL has ever known.

Perhaps his best production came in his injury-shortened 2004 season. It was his third season in the league, a mythic milestone for breakout seasons. He benefited from the departure of the legendary Tim Brown and the breakdown of the even-more legendary Jerry Rice, lining up as a close #2 to Jerry Porter’s #1, and catching balls from aged Rich Gannon and the reasonably-competent Kerry Collins.

Ronald Curry’s NFL Career

Season games Targets Rec Yards TDs Starting QB
2002 1 0 0 0 Rich Gannon
2003 16 5 31 0 Rich Gannon/ Rick Mirer
2004 12 70 50 679 6 Rich Gannon/ Kerry Collins
2005 2 2 2 12 0 Kerry Collins
2006 16 89 62 727 1 Andrew Walter/ Aaron Brooks
2007 16 97 55 717 4 Cade McNown/ Daunte Culpepper/ Jamarcus Russell
2008 13 48 19 181 2 Jamarcus Russell/ Andrew Walter

I included the “Starting QB” header in this stat box, because I think it is remarkably telling. Marc Bulger will be the 9th quarterback in seven seasons for Curry to try to sync up with. (If it comes down to it, Kyle Boller would be the 10th.) And it may partially explain the growing disparity between his targets (i.e. the number of passes thrown his direction) and his receptions.

I asked Stu Rosenberg of Raiders Radar for his take on Curry, and whether the Rams have gotten a player that has something left to contribute. Stu is a former Raiders beat writer, and was happy to contribute his perspective. Here’s his response:

Take last season and throw it out the back of the airplane when it comes to judging Curry’s ability. The guy had three fairly decent seasons in Oakland before the disaster known as 2008. Between waiting for Russell to remember that they played for the same team, to frequently dropping the ball when it would finally came his way, nothing went right for Curry.

That both the Raiders and Lions passed on him is hardly a ringing endorsement, but Curry could actually work out for the Rams. The guy can bolt and he’s never had issues getting open. If teams focus all of their energies on Avery, Curry could become an inviting target for Bulger … that is, if Bulger can manage to stay upright behind that line. So, yeah, under the right circumstances, he could become a contributor.

Curry was picked up by the Lions as a free agent, after the Raiders showed about as much interest in him as Jamarcus Russell had on the field, but apparently decided to let him loose after acquiring Dennis Northcutt to play the slot.

At least one group may view the Curry as a positive sign for the Rams: in their 2009 Annual (which I highly recommend), Football Outsiders picked the Rams as a potential candidate for a surprise team, giving them fairly good chances of a 5- or 6-win jump up the standings. However, one of their main caveats, not surprisingly, was the Rams’ receiving corps. Or more specifically, the inexperience of our receiving corps:

Going into training camp, the top three receivers on the depth chart are Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, and Laurent Robinson, who combined have just four years of NFL experience and 108 receptions. Toss in Derek Stanley and rookie Brooks Foster, and the top five receivers have just 114 receptions. As we pointed out in the chapter on the Chicago Bears, teams with very little career experience from their wide receivers have generally had very poor passing games.

Flipping then, to the chapter on the Chicago Bears, yields this analysis:

Chicago’s top five receivers heading into camp have a combined total of 145 career catches. Only 12 teams have had fewer career catches from their top five wideouts heading into a season in the DVOA era, and they averaged a passing DVOA of -19.9%; of those teams, only one — the 2008 Dolphins — had a positive DVOA.

(If you aren’t familiar with their stats, DVOA is an approximation of a team’s productivity, where 0 equals a perfectly average team.)

So even if Curry does not become a world-beater, his mere presence — and a healthy 50 or more catches, with a handful of end zone grabs — could go a long way toward stabilizing this offense, and fueling hopes for the 2009 season.