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Rams Roster Profile: Will TuTu Atwell bring fireworks to offense in 2023?

Will the 2023 season be the year TuTu Atwell finally breaks out in the Rams offense?

Los Angeles Rams Offseason Workout Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams will be asking their young wide receivers to step up in a big way in 2023. Allen Robinson was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to the NFL Draft. This left Cooper Kupp along with Van Jefferson as the team’s top two wide receivers. Behind them, TuTu Atwell, Ben Skowronek, and others will be asked to serve as a viable third option in the offense.

After being draft in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, that player should be Atwell. With that level of draft capital, you would expect Atwell to be able to rise to the occasion as he now enters year three.

Between now and the Rams’ first preseason game, I’m going to preview approximately 45 players on the roster. The goal here will be to highlight players looking to take that next step in 2023 as well as players who will serve as key depth on the roster. I may expand into the occasional star or roster-bubble player, but for the most part we’ll be looking at the players who will truly make or break the Rams season.

Let’s take a look at TuTu Atwell.

2022 Season in Review

When Atwell was given chances last year, all he did was answer the bell. Among players with at least 35 targets, Atwell’s 17.9 yards led the NFL in average depth of target (aDOT). His 16.6 yards per reception also ranked inside the top-10 at number eight.

On just passes of 20 yards or more, Atwell ranked second with 58 yards per reception and his aDOT of 38 yards was tied for third. If last year showed anything, it’s that the Rams second-round pick has the ability to be one of the more dangerous deep threats in the NFL.

The Good/Best Case Scenario

The good news when it comes to Atwell is that he finally produced last year when given the opportunity. With a healthy Matthew Stafford, Atwell potentially would have had even more production than he did. Countless plays were left on the table because of poor quarterback play.

For Atwell to have a successful season, he needs to take hold of the WR3 role in the Rams offense. The best case scenario is that he continues to build on some positive momentum in the second half of 2022 and carries that into year three in the offense. The Rams have typically used Atwell strictly as a deep threat. However, it would be nice to see him utilized in a similar role as Brandon Powell as well as in the intermediate areas of the field.

The Bad/Worst Case Scenario

Unfortunately for Atwell, the production hasn’t consistently been there. He didn’t see much time as a rookie. Despite McVay admitting he should have utilized Atwell early in 2022, it wasn’t until late in the year that Atwell finally got an opportunity.

The worst case scenario for Atwell is that he gets surpassed on the depth chart by both Ben Skowronek and Puka Nacua. This would limit Atwell’s playing time next season and would just verify that he was the wrong pick in 2021.

Biggest Question: Can TuTu Atwell bring fireworks to offense in 2023?

The Rams offense lacked explosive plays during the 2023 season. In fact, the Rams offense was one of the worst at creating explosives.

Credit: Shane Haff (Bleeding Green Nation)

However, as demonstrated earlier, Atwell was one of the more explosive players in the NFL in 2022. He averaged 16.6 yards per reception and showed his ability as a deep threat. With potentially more playing time and if the offensive line can protect Stafford, Atwell has the chance to be the deep threat and playmaker in the offense that he was draft to be in 2021.

Roster Battle

It’s hard to say whether or not there will be a roster battle for the third wide receiver spot. It makes the most sense for the Rams to rotate at wide receiver behind Kupp and Jefferson depending on the situation. Atwell should serve as the deep threat and someone who can serve as a decoy in the run game in a gadget-type role. Ben Skowronek is a good blocker and should continue to be utilized as such. Lastly, Nacua should see some playing time if continues to impress.

However, at the end of the day, only one of these players is going to get a majority of the snaps as the third wide receiver. Rotating personnel is good, but it can also make you predictable as an offense. Atwell will need to beat out Skowronek and Nacua if he want to see the field more often.

2023 Outlook and What to Expect

The 2023 season will be a big one for Atwell. He needs to be able to show that he’s ready for a larger role in the offense. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he was on the field more and utilized as a deep threat. McVay may also look to use Atwell in a similar role as they used Powell last season in terms of being a gadget player and getting involved in the run game.

One spot where Atwell may be needed as well is a punt returner. He only took four punt returns in college and has been used sparingly in that role in the NFL. It may not be something that he’s comfortable with or a role that the Rams are comfortable utilizing him in. Still, there will be an opportunity here and the Rams will certainly try him in this role during training camp.

When it comes to expectations for Atwell, he needs to be able to show growth and show that he’s ready to step up to the plate. It’s unrealistic to expect 1000 yards, but if he can end with 500+ and a few touchdowns, that would be considered a good season.

Chances of Making Final Roster

While some may not want to consider Atwell a lock, it’s hard to see the Rams cutting TuTu Atwell. Yes, Demarcus Robinson and Tyler Johnson were signed during OTAs. Xavier Smith is a UDFA who will be competing for a roster spot as well. While Robinson could earn a spot, the other two aren’t pushing Atwell off of the roster.

Final Roster Confidence: 10/10