A veteran star (Cooper Kupp) and a rookie star (Puka Nacua) lighting up the field for the LA Rams.
The Los Angeles Rams were assumed by many people to be one of the worst teams in the league coming into the 2023 NFL season. However, a little more than a third of the way into the season, the Sean McVay led squad is sitting at 3-3, a very acceptable record for a team that, after their Super Bowl victory two seasons ago, was predicted to fall apart quickly. A lack of draft capital and an older core group of players meant that they were in a prime position for a regression. Last season certainly displayed this regression with a 5-12 season after their 12-5 performance the season prior. The downward tumble was to continue, or so sports media said.
But the Rams aren’t counting themselves out yet. Led by veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Rams are the executors of one of the most productive passing attacks in the NFL. The passing offense of the Rams has yielded 1,677 yards from Stafford’s arm six games into the season for an average of 279.5 yards a game. That total yardage number is good enough for the 3rd most productive quarterback in the league. But why has an aging Stafford been able to be so successful? What factors contribute to the passing offense?
The biggest one this season has clearly been Stafford himself. His arm has been on fire. He’s been rifling the ball into tight windows and reading the field with accuracy and speed, enabling him to use his incredible arm talent to place the ball where it needs to go. Stafford has a history of being a standout quarterback, as anyone who has been watching football for the past decade will know. In seasons where he’s been the uninjured starter for the whole season, he’s never thrown for less than 4,000 yards. That’s consistency.
But Stafford isn’t the only reason for the passing success of the Rams. Rookie receivers Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell have been lighting up scoreboards in Sean McVay’s genius offensive scheme. Nacua has 598 yards through the first six games of the season, averaging almost 100 yards a game. His ability to find holes in zone coverages and settle into them, as well as his size and strength against man coverage, make him an exceptionally easy target to throw to. Atwell’s speed makes him a strong deep ball threat, and his shiftiness makes him a dangerous underneath receiver.
And of course, there’s perennial superstar Cooper Kupp, creator of one of, if not the greatest, wide receiver seasons of all time. He was injured (as he often is) for the first four games of the season, but for the past two weeks, he has been averaging 133 yards a game with an average yards per catch of 17.7.
The combination of Kupp, Nacua, and Atwell has been and will be a problem for defenses across the league, especially with McVay’s unpredictable and usually brilliant offensive mind. I’m excited to tune into Rams games to see the ball fly through the air for the remainder of the season.