May 28, 2024

LOS ANGELES — As the 2023 season kicked off, the Rams faced a notable deficiency in wide receiver depth. The absence of a clear secondary option behind Cooper Kupp became evident after Allen Robinson II, who failed to make an impact and was subsequently traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers last season. The situation looked precarious when Kupp, dealing with a re-aggravated hamstring injury, landed on injured reserve, causing him to miss the initial four games of the season. This raised concerns for the Rams and quarterback Matthew Stafford.

However, during Kupp’s absence, fifth-round draft pick Puka Nacua rapidly stepped up as a reliable second option, and in some instances, even a secondary primary choice. Nacua’s standout performance, leading all players with 164 receiving yards in the recent win against the New Orleans Saints, solidified his position as the Rams’ top receiver this season. With 1,327 receiving yards, he stands as the fifth-highest rookie in NFL history, requiring 147 more yards in the final two games to break the longstanding rookie receiving record set in 1960.

Nacua’s emergence, coupled with Kupp’s return, significantly contributed to the unexpected success of the Rams’ offense, which initially had low expectations with a season opener win total of 6.5.

Rams coach Sean McVay acknowledged the significance of this development, stating, “We’ve got some great players that have had really good production, but I think we’re at our best when the ball gets spread around. The depth of that room has been big, and I think you’re really seeing Matthew establish a really good rapport with those guys.”

In the recent game against the Saints, the depth of the receiving corps was evident. Nacua’s 164 yards were complemented by veteran receiver Demarcus Robinson’s six catches for 82 yards and a touchdown, while Kupp contributed six catches for 52 yards. Tight end Tyler Higbee also chipped in with three catches for 30 yards. McVay highlighted the team’s depth, stating that, as a playcaller, “really everything is open.”

While Robinson has been performing well, McVay emphasized the need to involve Tutu Atwell, who, despite being the Rams’ third receiver against the Saints, played only four snaps. McVay acknowledged Atwell’s unique skill set and expressed the necessity of finding ways to maximize the contributions of all players.

Stafford’s recent performance has seen an uptick in passing touchdowns to receivers, with nine in the last four games compared to eight in the first 10 games of the season. Despite the offensive success, Stafford believes there is room for improvement, stating, “I think we could have had 40 tonight in my opinion…a lot of room for improvement, but proud of our guys the way we came back and finished the game there at the end, which was nice.”

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