Rams receiver Tutu Atwell had more yards against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1 than he had in the first one and a half seasons of his whole career. Atwell caught six of eight targets for 119 yards, which was more yards than he had in the final six games of 2022. The next week, Atwell caught seven passes for 77 yards in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers, notching him in the top-10 receivers in the NFL for yards through two games.
However, the value of Matthew Stafford’s throws to Atwell have progressively gone down in each successive week, opening the door for Tutu to have a “get right game” against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 5. Because it would be a huge boost for the Rams to have Atwell “get right”, even as Cooper Kupp is potentially set to return after missing the last 11 months.
Defenses may be more on to how to defend L.A.’s passing offense and specifically how Stafford attacks the middle of the field. Said Doug Farrar this week: “Good job of finally understanding that you can’t play country Cover-3 against these guys.” and linking a clip of Stafford’s interception in Week 4 against the Indianapolis Colts on a throw at Atwell.
The Colts adjusted nicely in the third quarter -- this time, Kenny Moore II matched Tutu Atwell on the crosser, and jumped Stafford's throw. Good job of finally understanding that you can't play country Cover-3 against these guys. pic.twitter.com/kexU1m1MX5— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) October 4, 2023
Over his last two games, Atwell has been targeted 18 times. In fact, Atwell has been targeted nine times in three straight games after being targeted eight times in Week 1.
On those 18 targets against the Bengals and Colts, Atwell has caught nine passes for 74 yards, which amounts to a 50% catch rate, 8.2 yards per catch, and 4.11 yards per target.
That is the absolute antithesis of what an offense wants to get out of a speedy downfield threat like Tutu Atwell. But the Rams were only able to get an average depth of target of 5 yards to Atwell in Week 4, a steep downfall from the 12-16 ADOT that Stafford was getting to Atwell in Weeks 1-3.
That indication that most of Stafford’s throws to Atwell were at or behind the LOS in Indianapolis—as opposed to that one downfield crosser that was intercepted by Kenny Moore—could allow Sean McVay the opportunity to know where Atwell works as a weapon...
And where he doesn’t.
Atwell does also have value as a runner, picking up 22 yards on this play against the Eagles.
Tutu Atwell can SCOOT— PlayerProfiler NFL (@Profiler_NFL) September 26, 2023
He also drew a big pass interference penalty against the Colts.
The return of Cooper Kupp, whether that’s this week or next, will change Stafford’s preferences of targets and certainly cut into Atwell’s attempts. But Tutu is also so unique compared to L.A.’s other weapons and his presence on the field, be it a sweep or a running head start on a crosser or an out or a post route, he should be able to have the same kind of presence that he had in the first two weeks.
Going against the 4-0 Eagles, now would be a great time to see that again.