THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (News4usonline) – Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp had two early dropped passes against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Kupp finished the contest with an unlike-Kupp performance of two receptions for 29 yards.
After the game, a 24-17 defeat to the Steelers, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford shrugged off the dropped passes that Kupp had.
“I’m not worried about that at all, to be honest with you,” Stafford remarked in a postgame press conference. “I’ve got total trust in everybody that’s running out there and trying to get open for me. They’re doing everything they can and you know, those things are going happen. He was open a couple times two weeks ago against the Eagles and I missed him so it’s part of it. It’s not going to be a perfect game. I’m proud of the way he bounced back and got involved.”
If there is a player who can bounce back from a sub-par outing it’s Kupp. After missing the first four games of the NFL’s regular season, Kupp has slowly integrated himself back into the Rams offense with his precise route running and deft pass-catching skills.
In the three games he’s been back, Kupp has a grand total of 17 catches for 295 yards. While he works himself into top form, Kupp has a new partner who is helping to take the focus off the 2021 NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year. Rookie Puka Nacua has played like the second coming of Kupp and has already established himself as one of the top receivers in the NFL.
During a Week 8 Zoom press conference call, Rams head coach Sean McVay talked about how the newbie pass-catcher and veteran wide receiver are able to play off one another.
“I think just both really good players,” McVay said. “They can work edges and separate. They’ve got good aggressive hands at the catch point. I think you’re just seeing two really good football players. Puka plays a very physical brand of football. Cooper can do that as well. You see Cooper have the ability to work some of those options and choice routes where he’s got some different elements of recognizing and reading coverage. Certainly, Puka can do those things, but I think you’re just seeing two good football players that complement each other and we got to continue to do a good job of trying to get those guys in the right spots.”
Having Kupp back on the playing field has been a good thing for the offense of the Rams. What the numbers don’t show are all the intangibles that Kupp brings to the Rams offense, something the unit did not have when he was on the sidelines.
What Kupp brings to the table is spacing. Now that he is paired up with Nacua, Kupp’s experience should allow Stafford to have more open lanes to throw to for the rest of the season.
“He is a guy that gets a lot of attention,” McVay said. “I think he’s played really well, especially in those first couple games back from injury. He’s always been a guy that’s been so steady, so consistent, and he certainly is one of those players in this league that usually dictates coverage specifically in some of those known passing situations and does free up some opportunities for other guys in a lot of scenarios.”
Kupp, Nacua, and Tutu Atwell give Stafford three in-space receivers who can quickly flip a short reception into extended yards after the catch. Prior to the Rams playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 7, Kupp has wasted no time in re-establishing himself as the team’s preeminent wideout.
In his first game back, Kupp caught eight passes for 118 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles. Against the Arizona Cardinals, Kupp finished the game with seven receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown. Though he’s been successful coming back in recovering from his own malady, Kupp said the beat goes on for the Rams with whoever steps in for an injured player.
“It goes without saying that I think the more time you spend together with the guys that are in that huddle, the more you get to play off of each other and feel each other’s games out for sure,” Kupp said during a post-practice press conference at the team’s facility on Thursday, Oct. 19.
“That’s the nice thing, you’ve got (RB) Darrell (Henderson) back who’s played a lot of snaps here,” Kupp added. “I think when you have someone like that, that knows things… He’s coming in with kind of a wealth of knowledge of how we do things here, that helps. There is an element of understanding you got some guys down, but at the end of the day, like I said, just next man up mentality and these guys are ready to step up and do their part and do their job.”
In Kupp’s four-game absence, Nacua proved his value to the team, catching 39 passes for 501 yards. Nacua’s rise made Van Jefferson, whom the team traded, expendable.
Through the first seven games of the season, Nacua has totaled 58 catches for 752 yards. With a 17-game regular season schedule, hitting the 100 receptions mark and 1,000 yards in receiving is well within reach for Nacua, who has a unique way of communicating on game day, said Kupp.
“He’s got a good switch when it’s game day,” Kupp remarked. “He’s got a good switch and (WR) Tutu (Atwell) likes to say he talks in grunts on game day and I think that’s pretty good analysis of it.”
There are many attributes that make Kupp great. One point may be how he self-evaluates himself when watching film.
“Unfortunately, I think the mistakes are usually the things that are showing the most,” Kupp said. “What I like to see on film is I like to see progress. I like to see that there’s not the same mistakes happening over and over again. What I’m seeing on film is what I was seeing in the moment as well. I want those things to match up. If that’s not happening, I feel like I’m not seeing the game well, that’s kind of what happens. Like, shoot, I wasn’t seeing that the right way.”
Top Photo: Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) catches this pass in front of an Arizona Cardinals defender during an NFL game played at SoFi Stadium on Oct. 15, 2023. Photo by Sammy Saludo/News4usonline
Dennis has covered and written about politics, crime, social justice, sports, and entertainment. Dennis currently covers the NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA, and Olympic sports. Dennis is the editor of News4usonline.com and serves as the publisher of the Compton Bulletin newspaper. He earned a journalism degree from Howard University.