While some may have written them off after Cooper Kupp went on injured reserve before the start of the season, the Los Angeles Rams are showing that they in turn did not write back. With the help of two young receivers who are both in the top-10 of receiving yards through two weeks, the Rams are 1-1 and fought hard against a San Francisco 49ers team expected to be deep in the playoffs once again.
Could Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua, and Tutu Atwell help L.A. keep pace with them by becoming the NFL’s best receiver trio?
The Rams selected Louisville speedster Tutu Atwell in the second round of 2021 NFL Draft. This move sparked fanbase-wide outrage as it drew comparison to former Rams draft pick Tavon Austin, who had a similar skillset and did not work out following the 2013 draft. Many were also hopeful that Les Snead would pick center Creed Humphrey instead. Fast forward to 2023 and Atwell is among the league leaders at the receiver position in his first real season as a starter.
Matthew Stafford has gone out of his way to get him involved early and often but most importantly, it’s been Atwell himself that has hauled in the receptions thrown his way. The 23-year old receiver has 13 receptions for 196 yards to start his third year, with 12 of those going for first downs. He’s close to surpassing his 2022 total of 18 catches and 296 yards already.
While the emergence of “Turbo Tutu” has been a breath of fresh air for the Rams and their fans alike, you cannot go more than an hour without hearing about Puka Nacua. The Rams chose three players in the fifth round of this year’s draft before selecting the BYU receiver with the final pick of the round. It’s hard to believe that the Rams selected seven players before taking Nacua in the draft because he’s not only the top rookie in L.A., he’s one of the most productive receivers in the NFL so far.
Nacua has been on another planet and has looked like not only the best rookie wideout, but the best rookie from the 2023 NFL Draft class altogether. The man many saw shades of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp in has been that and beyond that in terms of production. Nacua has 266 yards receiving on 25 receptions in the first two games so far and that’s an NFL record for most receptions by a rookie in his first two games. He also set a record for the most receptions by a rookie in a single game this past weekend.
Nacua has been incredible for the Rams and has stepped up alongside Atwell in a big way while Kupp has been on the injured reserve list and Van Jefferson has struggled to get going. So that does beg the question, with these two receivers balling for the Rams, what happens when Kupp comes back?
Puka Nacua wasn't the Rams first pick of the fifth round.— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) September 18, 2023
He wasn't their second pick.
He wasn't their third pick.
The Rams waited until their fourth pick of the fifth round to pick the frontrunner for OROY.
Better than not getting him at all.
Cooper Kupp is pound-for-pound one of the game’s best receivers. He’s an outstanding route-runner, natural hands catcher of the football and is a nightmare to bring down after the catch. He already showed the world what he can do with Stafford when there’s not a lot around him. However, now that Nacua and Atwell are producing it begs the question just how good this potential trio could be when Kupp does indeed come back from injury.
I think it’s fair to say they are one of if not the best trios in the NFL. Sure, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are an impressive trio but at the moment we don’t know what they are especially with a banged up Joe Burrow. We will get a closer look when the two teams play on Monday Night Football next week.
Miami has Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle but after that they don’t have a legit third. Seattle’s trio of DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba were held in check by L.A. and haven’t looked as amazing as advertised yet. The Raiders trio is intriguing but still wouldn’t put it ahead of the Rams. The point is that you get a group of Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell in 2023 and that might actually be the best in the game.
The big question often asked is how Kupp and Nacua would work when they do the same thing. NFL Next Gen Stats has route charts out for the week two receivers and if this doesn’t tell you that Nacua would fit no matter who is placed in the lineup alongside him, then nothing will.
The last thing Rams fans should be worried about is how a talented receiver like Nacua with a generational offensive mind in Sean McVay will be able to acclimate to an offense once a former Offensive Player of the Year level player makes his way back from an injury.
One thing is for sure, the Rams offense has been fun to watch now two weeks in a row against tough defenses. One can only imagine what it might look like when their best player is back on field with the two most exciting pieces on the offense so far without him.