It’s no secret, following a rookie season in which many were already throwing out the word “bust,” that Jared Goff had a stellar bounceback sophomore year in 2017. The upgrade to Sean McVay and his staff played a large role in his rebound, no doubt. But Goff’s receiving corps deserves plenty of credit for the team’s successes on offense, as well.
Over at Pro Football Focus, they took a closer look at the best WR ratings (passer rating when targeted) against both press and off-man coverages for the 2017 season. As a quick reminder, press coverage is a situation where the defensive back lines up directly across from the receiver with the intention of disrupting the route, the timing, and ultimately the play. In an off-man scenario, just as it suggests, the DB gives the receiver a bit of space at the line of scrimmage.
But regardless of the situation, the Rams’ receivers were up to the task. PFF looked at the Top 5 WR ratings for both press and off-man coverage. Of the 10 receivers listed, three Rams made the list. Let’s have a closer look.
No. 3 - Cooper Kupp, 147.7 WR rating
Kupp had a really encouraging rookie season in 2017 and heads into his sophomore campaign as one of the league’s most promising slot receivers. Kupp rarely faced press coverage last season, but when he did, he used his shiftiness and athleticism to produce great results. Kupp caught 18-of-23 targets for 320 yards against press coverage, posting a WR rating of 147.7 and recording a catch rate of 78.3 percent, both of which ranked third among receivers with at least 10 targets. Even more impressive is the fact that a whopping 65.0 percent of Kupp’s press targets were positively graded, which was second only to Sterling Shepherd a season ago.
No. 1 - Sammy Watkins, 139.7 WR rating
The fourth-year receiver saw slightly more off-man coverage (53.3 percent) than press-man coverage (46.7 percent) in 2017. Watkins was especially effective against off-man coverage, as he caught 20-of-39 targets for 329 receiving yards and four touchdowns, giving him a league-best WR rating of 139.7. What’s more impressive, is that 61.3 percent of those targets ended with either a first down or a touchdown, also the league’s best mark. Watkins was one of just two receivers to see at least 30 targets against off-man coverage without dropping a single pass.
No. 3 - Robert Woods, 134.3 WR rating
Woods took advantage of defenders giving him a cushion at the line of scrimmage in 2017, as he gained 608 receiving yards on 44 receptions against off coverage. He averaged 2.43 yards per route run against off-man coverage, ranking sixth among receivers with at least 20 targets and generated a WR Rating of 134.3, ranking third among receivers.
Obviously Sammy Watkins - who despite having only the fourth most receptions, lead the team in touchdowns - is no longer with the Rams. Brandin Cooks, who dropped in at No. 5 on the “Off-man” list (with a 128.8 rating), will look to fill that void.
Goff’s connections with these three wideouts is made even more impressive considering it was the first year these four had been on the same field together — and in an offense that was new to them all. With another full offseason to gel, look for Goff and his crew of sure-handed receivers to continue efficiently chewing up opposing defenses in 2018.