Back in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams surprised everyone by snagging a wide receiver with their first pick, as the squad elected to select Tutu Atwell out of the University of Louisville. Listed at just 5’9” and 165 pounds (which he is surely lighter than, I’ve seen him in person), Atwell was expected to bring his blazing speed into a Rams offense that lacked a true deep threat since the departure of Brandin Cooks.
Saying this as nicely as possible, Atwell’s rookie season with the team in 2021 was very disappointing, with the Louisville product failing to haul in a single pass and suffering a season-ending injury just midway through his first season. The criticism from the fan-base was rightfully directed at the Rams front office, as many saw the instant impact Creed Humphrey had on the Chiefs offensive line, leading to more questions as to why the Rams passed on the center in order to draft a severely undersized wide receiver.
Luckily, a Super Bowl title in Atwell’s rookie season basically swept his rough first year under the rug. However, heading into Atwell’s sophomore campaign, the questions began to arise again due to the signing of Allen Robinson in what now became a jam packed receiver room in L.A.
At the beginning of the season, Atwell was non-existent and was even a healthy inactive player in three early season games. Once again it seemed as if the Rams completely whiffed on the selection and Atwell simply was not cut out for the league, adding even more fuel to the “why did we pass on Humphrey” fire.
As the season went on, the offensive line struggled mightily and the injuries began to pile up all over the field, with each passing week resulting in more and more losses than we have ever seen in the Sean McVay era. The team was bad, and it became time to start experimenting and allowing some unproven guys to show what they can do on gameday.
Enter Tutu Atwell, who finally made the first reception of his career in week 5 against the Dallas Cowboys, and a big one at that:
TUTU.— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) October 9, 2022
Atwell beats Trevon Diggs deep for a gain of 54
Then, Atwell was left out of the gameplan the following two games, and inactive for two games following that. The move was very strange considering the Rams needed big plays more than anyone in the league at the time. In Atwell’s first game back against New Orleans in week 11, he made another huge play, this time for his first career touchdown:
Rams fans everywhere rejoiced, as it seemed head coach Sean McVay had finally found a way to get Atwell more involved in the offense. As the season progressed, and the Rams began to lose more games as well as players, Atwell slowly became an integral part of what L.A. was doing offensively with their limited pieces, and even scored a touchdown on a reverse in the last game of the year:
Over the final eight games of the season, Atwell averaged a 62.6% snap count share at the receiver position, with a career high 93% of the snaps in the season finale against the Seattle Seahawks. Having only played a significant amount of time in 8/17 games this season, Atwell amassed a total of 27 touches for 332 yards from scrimmage and 2 touchdowns.
Not only did Atwell prove he’s capable of making big plays this season, but he also showed his slender frame was able to hold up even when he began to see more action and withstand more hits. At times, Atwell seemed to be the only receiver creating real separation in his routes following the season-ending injuries to both Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson.
Although Tutu’s second year did not have eye-catching numbers to the pure statistical admirers out there, he proved a lot to both Sean McVay and the team itself. There are very few things in football that are completely uncoachable, with speed being one of the main ones. Atwell possesses blazing speed and an underrated route running ability and, with the newfound trust of Sean McVay, can catapult himself as one of the top pure deep-threats in the entire NFL.