The Los Angeles Rams are traveling to Santa Clara to face the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football. One of the key concerns heading into the primetime divisional matchup is how the Rams will adjust and rotate their receiving corps after signing star Odell Beckham, Jr and losing Robert Woods for the remainder of the season with an ACL injury.
San Francisco has LA’s number recently and pretty much over the Sean McVay era - winning the last four matchups between the teams. The 49ers are 3-5 and hoping to salvage their playoff chances, so it’s possible they have more to play for in this game. Los Angeles, currently with a 7-2 record, is looking for a rebound after getting beatdown on Sunday Night Football by the Tennessee Titans.
The effectiveness of the Rams passing attack will be a significant factor in the determination of the final score, so how will LA deploy it’s new look group of pass catchers?
One thing is certain - Cooper Kupp will be the primary receiving threat against the 49ers. Through 9 games Kupp has already accumulated 103 targets (11+ per game). Both the total targets and per game average figures lead the NFL prior the start of Week 10, so it’s fair to expect the veteran receiver to get a number of looks again on Monday night.
The real question is - what sort of production can the Rams expect from Van Jefferson, Odell Beckham, Jr, and Ben Skowronek in San Francisco? Robert Woods was averaging between 7 to 8 targets per game prior to injury, so how will the Rams distribute his workload in this divisional contest?
It’s reasonable to expect Jefferson to be the biggest beneficiary of Woods’ absence, at least in the short-term, as he has spent the last year and a half learning the playbook and the McVay offense. Jefferson is a very similar player to both Kupp and Woods, so the second-year receiver is well-suited to pick up Woods’ role in both the run and pass game. One of the more difficult aspects of Woods’ skillset to replace will be his willingness and effectiveness as a blocker - both on the ground and in pass protection.
The 2020 second round draft selection has 433 receiving yards on the season, which means he was on pace for 817 yards through 17 games. Jefferson’s workload is about to increase and he will likely be more involved in the offense. Could he reach 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career? The limiting factor will be how quickly Beckham adapts to the Rams offense and what sort of role he is able to carve out on the team. Focusing on the now, Jefferson at least seems poised for a big night against the 49ers.
Much will be made of Beckham joining the team, but it’s questionable how much he can contribute this week after only joining the Rams on Friday. It has been reported that LA has worked a few plays in for Beckham, but it’s hard to see him be involved in more than a handful of specially designed plays. The addition of OBJ could be huge for the Rams down the stretch, but it could also take some time before we see fireworks.
At least for Monday night, rookie seventh rounder Skowronek is expected to start as the third wide receiver for LA. McVay is reluctant to give rookies much playing time, so it is telling that Skowronek has notched real time repetitions in what used to be a fairly crowded receiving room. The rookie has 3 receptions for 30 yards on the season, and he also caught a pass on a fake punt that was negated by penalty.
Perhaps the biggest factor working in Skowronek’s favor is that he is a big body and a willing blocker. The rookie is listed 6’3 and 224 lbs, which makes him the biggest receiver on the Rams roster. Los Angeles has also used him as a lead blocker on run plays a couple of times this season, so he may be asked to fill Woods’ shoes in this aspect of the offense. It remains to be seen whether Beckham is willing or able to contribute to the team as a blocker, but this is a very important part of what the Rams expect from their receivers. It is notable that Beckham is only listed at 5’11, 198 lbs.
The addition of OBJ has gone from a bit of a luxury to a necessity after the injury to Woods. One of the biggest concerns surrounding this team and their Super Bowl hopes will be the effectiveness of the receiver group moving forward. The Rams have not had much time to adjust, having a practice with Beckham and without Woods only once. How will the receivers fare in this divisional matchup on Monday Night Football?