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How much did Rams improve at receiver by swapping Robert Woods for Allen Robinson?

The initial signing of Robinson was met with excitement, until it meant losing Woods

NFL: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The social media reaction to the Los Angeles Rams signing free agent wide receiver Allen Robinson was universally positive. After all, how could any team possibly cover the likes of Robinson, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Van Jefferson, and possibly Odell Beckham, Jr. if they are all on the field at the same time?

But the excitement faded over the weekend when rumors began swirling that Woods could likely be on the move. On Saturday the Rams agreed to trade Woods to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for a sixth round draft selection in next year’s draft (2023) - a transaction motivated mostly by its financial implications.

Now that the dust has settled on the exciting signing of Robinson and the emotional trade of Woods - just how much better is the Rams receiving corps now?

On the surface, it seems the statistics the two receivers have accumulated over their best seasons are fairly similar; however, Woods had the luxury of playing in one of the best schemed offenses in football and Robinson was fielding passes from the likes of Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles.

Robert Woods

  • 2018 - 86 receptions for 1,219 yards (14.2 avg) and 6 TDs
  • 2019 - 90 receptions for 1,134 yards (12.6 avg) and 2 TDs

Allen Robinson

  • 2019 - 98 receptions for 1,147 yards (11.7 avg) and 7 TDs
  • 2020 - 102 receptions for 1,250 yards (12.3 avg) and 6 TDs

These statistics do not take into account Woods’ impact on the ground, as he recorded 157, 115, and 155 yards in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 seasons respectively. LA also had success when using jet sweep motions as a decoy, which was a product of Woods being a productive player when they actually handed the ball off.

The above comparison also does not reflect Robinson’s best individual season in 2015 where he hauled in 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Aside from that season, Woods and Robinson have produced at a similar pace in recent years.

The key contrast between the veteran receivers is two-fold: Robinson had a higher volume of targets, which he may have a hard time finding in a loaded Rams offense, and a higher scoring output. While Woods had been exceptional during his time in Los Angeles, he seemed to have difficulty finding the end zone.

It’s also fair to question whether Woods was a fit in the new-look LA scheme that the Rams implemented around quarterback Matthew Stafford. Woods only played in 9 games in 2021 due to his season-ending injury, but his usage was down and he seemed to be frustrated by his lack of involvement.

Towards the end of the Jared Goff years, the Rams became over reliant on the play action passing game - and play action was more of a crutch than a useful tool to push the ball down field. Play action was an important part of the 2021 Rams, but they used it less frequently and in different ways. It’s possible that a receiver widely regarded for his blocking in the run game found himself on the outside looking in - and why a receiver like OBJ that is not as involved in this facet of the offense found success in LA later in the season.

If LA is building a quick-paced offense that is spread out and features four wide receivers, maybe Woods’ best skills became less valuable to the Rams. Maybe it was time to find a more physical receiver that can win contested catches in all areas of the field - one that is open even when he isn’t really open.

Enter Allen Robinson.

During Stafford’s time in Detroit he played with a much different receiving corps - one that was historically filled with players who could win in contested catch situations rather than being primarily focused on separation. From Calvin Johnson to Kenny Golladay, Stafford had a reputation for trusting his pass catchers and giving them a chance to fight for the ball. That’s not really the MO of Kupp and Woods, but Stafford will give Robinson opportunities - and the receiver will win often.

While much is made of Woods’ contributions in the running game, it’s not as though Robinson is unwilling to block. Robinson has a large frame at 6-2, 220 lbs. and he was a physical player during his time with the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Even with Woods gone the Rams have a wealth of receiving talent. Aside from Kupp who had a historic performance in 2022, LA has a number of young and seemingly ascending pass catchers - from Jefferson to Jacob Harris, Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek, and Brycen Hopkins.

Change isn’t always good, but the Rams offense is evolving with Stafford at the helm. LA seems to have a plan to maximize Stafford’s value and allow the passing game to take the next step. Unfortunately, that plan required trading a player that had been an important part of the team’s success in recent seasons.