Let’s face it, the NFL season is still a few months away, so stories trickling out about players during OTAs should be taken with a grain of salt. This is the time of year where storylines are scarce, meaning any and all plays made by guys during OTAs will have writers projecting them as the next superstar of the league.
With that being said, there are cases where these storylines have some merit and, while it might not mean the next superstar has been found, should be taken seriously. Following comments made by Rams head coach Sean McVay and superstar receiver Cooper Kupp about rookie wideout Puka Nacua, I believe the Rams have found a gem in the young man out of BYU.
Following OTA practice’s this week, Cooper Kupp had this to say about Nacua:
“Yeah, he’s pretty special. I think if he can stay on a good trajectory, he’s going to be a very good football player in this league,” Kupp said. “I love the way that he attacks each day. He’s got a great feel for the game, great feel for leverage, running routes. You come in, you’re running new concepts and things like that. Things that you’ve done before to get open might not fit within the realm of the things that we want to do here, but he’s just transitioned so quickly over understanding what the parameters are that he’s able to work in. He’s got a great feel for attacking leverage, how to stick things, his timing on when he needs to show up for things and he’s asking the right questions too. I think that’s the big thing. He’s asking the right questions and as he gets more reps over and over as he gets to see these things, he’s just going to get better and better. So, I’m really excited about him and the steps that he’s going to be able to take over these next few months.”
There are a few things about that statement that should make Rams fans excited about Nacua, but one aspect stands out to me in particular. When Cooper Kupp praises your feel for the game, that is something special in its own right. Kupp has been described as a receiver who sees the game as a quarterback, displaying his uncanny feel for when and where to be at a given moment as a play unfolds.
Kupp’s feel for leverage and finding open spots in zone concepts has helped make him one of the top players in the game, and I’m sure he recognizes when someone possesses those same traits as himself. Nacua has already caught the eye of the best player on the Rams offense, something that should not be taken lightly whatsoever.
Head coach Sean McVay also had some words about Nacua’s impressive start at OTAs:
“Matthew (Stafford) has done a great job of really just kind of taking him under his wing and being able to kind of just help give those little nuances, having Cooper back. So he’s smart, he’s conscientious. It’s hard to really compare to anybody because a lot of those guys, whether you talk about Robert (Woods’) first year, Cooper’s rookie year, having (Watkins) but then ended up having Brandin Cooks, there’s been a standard set in that room where there’s been really conscientious players. Even if you go with Josh Reynolds, how quickly Van (Jefferson) has done a great job of grasping the offense. And so, he’s a guy that we’re expecting him to come in, expecting him to be able to contribute and compete. Every spot is going to be earned on this team, but I really like what he’s done and I think it’s a credit to everybody around him and his conscientiousness.”
There is a reason that McVay and Snead felt the need to bring in another wide receiver in the draft, especially with the expiring contract of Van Jefferson looming. The Rams wideout’s over the span of the McVay-era have been known as unselfish and hard-nosed ball players that compete at a high level with or without the football in their hands. Nacua certainly fits that bill and, with the obvious high football IQ he has displayed, there is a real shot he is a day one contributor when the Rams kickoff in September.
Now, I’m not saying Nacua is the next Cooper Kupp or the next Robert Woods, that is a ton of pressure and, quite frankly, disrespectful to what Kupp and Woods have done over the span of their careers. With that being said, the high praise that Nacua has received this early definitely should put some folks on notice, and it would not surprise me if he became a vital part of the team’s offensive attack this season.