Countdown to Camp #5: The Sean McVay Era
The Los Angeles Rams have a bit of a problem on offense.
A good problem, but a problem nonetheless.
WR Cooper Kupp hauled in 62 catches on 94 targets for 869 yards as a rookie last year. WR Robert Woods added nearly 800 yards from his 56 receptions out of 85 targets in just 12 games missing a few due to a shoulder injury. WR Sammy Watkins added almost 600 yards from 39 catches on 70 targets though hitting the end zone more frequently with eight touchdowns to Kupp’s and Woods’ five. And RB Todd Gurley’s near-MVP campaign saw him put up seven more receiving yards than Woods on 64 receptions from 87 targets.
Of course that doesn’t include the tight ends or rotational wide receivers which gets at the core problem for the 2018 Los Angeles Rams’ offense.
There are too many mouths to feed.
Again, this is a good problem. It makes it difficult for defenses to defend everyone with the sincerity required when you have to treat every weapon on the field with equal potential. It allows Head Coach Sean McVay the comfort of varying his playcalls especially in key situations knowing there’s not a true go-to target and he can scheme to the situation and not necessarily a single player.
But it does mean the Rams have limitations they’ll have to face.
Watkins’ production as a WR1 was uniquely low. And when he hit free agency, Rams fans were hardly racing to support re-signing him. When he landed a major payday with the Kansas City Chiefs, Rams fans and the media were quick to question why a player with such low production was earning such a magnificent salary. How then to gauge the remaining wideouts as 2018 nears?
Watkins has been replaced with WR Brandin Cooks who the Rams traded for from the New England Patriots and signed to a major contract extension through the 2023 season. How will Rams fans feel if the player the Rams replaced Watkins with for the same amount of money over a longer period doesn’t outproduce him ESPECIALLY given how productive Cooks has been the last three seasons with the Patriots and New Orleans Saints? What of Woods and Kupp who many will expect to product more? And what if we actually get the tight ends involved to the degree many were hoping for given McVay’s history as a tight ends coach? What happens in the absence of WR Tavon Austin who was traded to the Dallas Cowboys during the 2018 NFL Draft? What about the depth like WR Josh Reynolds? And will Gurley continue to be used as often in the passing game even with rookie fifth-round pick RB John Kelly on board?
How in the hell do you get the ball to all of these guys in opportunities to do more than they did in 2017?
The answer of course is, you don’t.
Fans often operate from a Maddenesque position of assuming every player gets better every year and every statistical output should increase. Reality of course doesn’t operate this way.
The question is how best to prepare the offense across all levels in camp.
Need to get more out of the tight ends this year? That might mean less work for Gurley and Kupp. Intend to work Cooks downfield with more regularity than Watkins last year? That could take away some intermediate work for Robert Woods. #ReynoldsSZN? Pull everyone back a bit. And all of this operates from the outlook of a healthy roster. Injuries could change everything.
There’s no real way to know how the offense will progress from September to December. Things will develop and players will rise to the surface in ways that may not be particularly predictable. But one thing is clear.
The talent base for the Rams’ offense is incredibly wide. Too wide to support evenly.
That’s a great thing from a competitive vantage point. But for those guys looking to make plays and put up numbers, there’s only so much to go around.