The Los Angeles Rams began Organized Team Activities this week which means training camp and all of the position battles that come with it will be right around the corner. One of those position battles will most certainly be at the wide receiver position.
It’s widely known that Sean McVay prefers to run his offense out of 11 personnel. Since McVay arrived in Los Angeles, the Rams have been one of the heaviest 11 personnel teams in the NFL. While that might change some in 2023 due to the personnel on the roster, it’s likely that the Rams offense will still be based out of 11 personnel with three wide receivers on the field.
However, the issue here is that outside of Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson, the Rams have a lot of unproven pieces at the wide receiver position. Do they have the personnel to consistently have three wide receivers on the field? Between Ben Skowronek, TuTu Atwell, and even rookie Puka Nacua, there will be a battle for that third wide receiver spot.
The first and likely most realistic option to take a majority of the snaps behind Kupp and Jefferson is Skowronek. While he had an up-and-down rookie season that included an interception off of his hands in the Super Bowl and dropped touchdown in the NFC Championship game, Skowronek showed dependability in his sophomore campaign.
Many of Skowronek’s looks came due to opportunity with Kupp and Allen Robinson being sidelined with injuries. Still, the wide receiver out of Notre Dame made the most of those opportunities. Skowronek finished as the Rams’ second-leading wide receiver only behind Kupp with 39 catches for 376 yards.
Skowronek’s catch against the Las Vegas Raiders helped the Rams on their game-winning drive and seemed to be a turning point in his young career. He finished with seven catches for 89 yards in that game which both marked career highs.
WHAT A CATCH BY BEN SKOWRONEK pic.twitter.com/WzpmgRHTSf— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) December 9, 2022
While Skowronek developed as a receiver last year, the reason he makes the most sense as a third receiver is because of his versatility and ability as a blocker. Skowronek has background as a tight end and the Rams have made the most of that. Last season, they utilized Skowronek as a full back which led to some creative play designs.
Ben Skowronek is the best FB in the NFL. Change My Mind. pic.twitter.com/WBP1Q2hj3Y— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) September 22, 2022
His ability as a blocker is what allows the Rams to keep three wide receivers on the field, especially on running downs. This allows McVay to have plays looks the same, but still remain unpredictable when it comes to the play type in terms of run or pass.
This blocking ability is something that TuTu Atwell doesn’t provide due to his size. Nacua could develop into a good blocker, but that shouldn’t be expected right away as he will just be a rookie.
When it comes to the Rams third wide receiver, Skowronek is someone who makes the most sense and he will likely see a majority of those reps. With that said, the Rams do like to mix up their personnel. All of these receivers each bring a different element to the offense.
Atwell’s average depth of target last season was 15.5 yards. This ranked seventh in the NFL. If Atwell can develop more in the intermediate areas of the field, the Rams can continue to utilize him more often as a deep threat in the offense along with some of the gadget plays that will be available with Brandon Powell no longer on the roster.
There has been a lot of talk about Nacua early on in OTAs. With that said, even on a young roster, it’s hard to see a fifth-round rookie wide receiver making an immediate impact.
Puka Nacua could end up being really good for the #Rams. However, the expectations out of the gate seem a little high. Here are the best rookie seasons from 5th round picks dating back to 06:— JAKE ELLENBOGEN (@JKBOGEN) May 19, 2023
19: Darius Slayton 48/740/8
15: Stefon Diggs 52/720/4
13: Kenny Stills 32/641/5
Could Nacua end up making a Stefon Diggs or Kenny Stills type impact? Anything is certainly possible, but it’s important to temper expectations. It’s more likely that Nacua is slowly worked into the offense and maybe gets more of a run later on in the season.
The Rams’ third wide receiver will remain interchangeable in 2023 with Skowronek taking a majority of the snaps. After a strong second season in the offense, he’s earned that opportunity. Still, the Rams have talented players behind Skowronek that offer different skillsets and McVay will find ways to work those players into the offense.