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Puka Nacua’s progress in training camp a silver lining to Cooper Kupp injury

The offseason hype train is high on the rookie receiver, but so far it seems warranted

NFL: JUN 06 Los Angeles Rams OTA Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Los Angeles Rams rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua has had glowing reviews since the beginning of OTAs and that momentum has now carried over into training camp. All-Pro receiver Cooper Kupp is currently out with a hamstring injury and if there is any silver lining to take away from his absence, it forces quarterback Matthew Stafford to focus on players other than his star who led the league in target share.

This was apparent over the weekend as Nacua was getting extra opportunities with Kupp sidelined. The rookie receiver was able to snag a pass in tight space that drew a reaction from the crowd at hand. He then came back and went up to make an even more impressive contested catch along the right sideline, making the grab look effortless.

The confidence that Stafford seems to already have in Nacua is very encouraging considering he never seemed to get on track with 2022 free agency acquisition, Allen Robinson II, who was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers in April.

The Rams recently put out a video of Stafford mic’d up, coaching Nacua on the details of his game. Stafford taking an interest in Nacua speaks loudly for what the young receiver has been able to prove on the field in his short time with the franchise.

Around the 3:23 mark in the clip below, Stafford can be seen explaining details of how he wants Nacua standing at the line of scrimmage, The veteran QB then encouraged the rookie saying “next level (in reference to the NFL), you’re getting there, you’re getting there-nice catch”.

Nacua is a talented receiver who is consistently compared to former Rams fan favorite, Robert Woods, and not just for wearing #17. Like Woods, he can play any of the wide receiver positions on the field, and also brings the ability to play punt returner as well, a position he has been trying recently in camp.

Coming out of BYU the versatile rookie was able to put together 1,430 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final two seasons of collegiate football. If there was one knock on Nacua during the draft process, it was his injury history, as he had to fight through a broken foot his freshman year, as well as missing four games his senior year with other minor injuries.

Nacua will need to hold off Tutu Atwell and Demarcus Robinson for the third receiver position, both who seem be having good camps as well, with Robinson specifically making some impressive catches so far. However, Robinson has bounced around a few teams in his short NFL career and Atwell has been with the Rams for two years with not much to show for it. This is about as even a camp battle as there can be, and it will be interesting to see how much playing time each of the three receivers get in the preseason.

Nacua can make his claim to the job if he continues to earn the trust of his head coach Sean McVay. Fortunately, for Nacua, it sounds like he already has his quarterback’s.