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How will Rams adjust WR rotation vs Commanders without Tutu Atwell?

Tyler Johnson called up from the practice squad and could see his first action of the 2023 season.

Cleveland Browns v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Ric Tapia/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams are set to face off against the Washington Commanders this afternoon at SoFi Stadium. While star defensive end Aaron Donald (groin) is expected to play, playmaking receiver Tutu Atwell is expected to sit out as he works his way back from a concussion.

How will the Rams adjust their rotation at wide receiver without regular starter Atwell? Well, you’ll obviously see a lot of Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua as they are mainstays on the offense as long as they are healthy.

Veteran Demarcus Robinson has been rotating and taking away playing time from Atwell in recent weeks, so he’s the natural replacement in some capacities. The Rams have deployed Robinson over Atwell when they are trying to establish a more physical presence on the ground, as Robinson has a much larger frame than the slight Atwell. While Robinson is not as dynamic as a receiving threat, especially deep down the field, we’ve seen the receiver make key plays through the air over the last couple of weeks. Against the team he played for last season, the Baltimore Ravens, Robinson caught three passes for 46 yards and a touchdown.

The Rams also called up former Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Tyler Johnson from their practice squad and Johnson could have a role with Matthew Stafford on Sunday. Johnson is a larger bodied slot receiver that gets most of his work underneath, so he’s not a one-to-one replacement for Atwell. Austin Trammell has been involved in the offense of late, but that was more to help fill in for Kupp when he was rehabbing an ankle injury.

Los Angeles doesn’t necessarily have a replacement for Atwell’s speed—both in the deep areas of the field and horizontally on jet sweeps and gadget plays. This could make life easier for the Washington defense if they aren’t scared of getting beat deep, which would allow them to key on the underneath passes. Sure, we’ve seen Kupp and Nacua get behind the defense at times this season for long receptions; however, that is different than the field stretching speed that defenses must remain alert of when Atwell is on the field—especially when he is moved around with designer pre-snap motions.

While Tutu Atwell hasn’t filled up the stat sheet this season, he’s still been able to carve out a key role as a regular starter. If the Rams passing game does fire on all cylinders as they have in recent weeks, it’s possible that we will look back and remember the absence of Atwell’s speed as a significant explanation for that step back.