What 16-year NFL veteran receiver Steve Smith had to say about Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp has to be heard by L.A. Rams fans. There’s good in it, no question. There’s a lot of good in it.
There’s also some aspects to what the former All-Pro and Pro Bowl receivers had to say about the Rams offense, Matthew Stafford’s tendencies, and Kupp’s hamstring that should give fans reasons for concern.
In the latest episode of the Cut To It podcast, which I’ve queued up here directly to the Puka section, Steve Smith says that Puka Nacua is the new Cooper Kupp and that he will continue to eat while Kupp is out. That’s mostly good news, right? Puka has caught an unbelievable 25 passes through two games, is second in the NFL in yards, and can clearly keep L.A. above water despite missing their best offensive weapon.
We saw how bad things got for the Rams in 2022 when they lost Kupp and didn’t have Puka. Now they do and that’s great news.
However, Smith also says two things that are important to hear:
One is that Kupp’s hamstring injury could keep him out months, not weeks. Something that the media may not know as well as Smith is what it is like to rehab from injury, specifically a hamstring. Smith believes that a hamstring injury could means at least 6-8 weeks of rest and that’s just what you do before you start rehabbing. Kupp hurt his hamstring at the start of training camp, so it’s already been over a month. But then he returned and then left to go see a specialist.
For all we know, Kupp’s timeline for rest restarted at the end of training camp. The fact that he went to see a specialist, something that is not known as a typical action for a hamstring injury, could signal a long-term absence beyond just the four games he has to miss on IR.
The other thing that Smith said that is worth noting is that Puka Nacua is playing directly in Kupp’s role. While Kupp is out, the Rams have Puka and we’ve seen how well that works. But when Kupp returns, what evidence do we have that Puka will have another role that works nearly as well? Or that at least stands out to that degree.
Steve Smith notes how Matthew Stafford has always keyed in on a single guy and that Sean McVay’s offense only has a minor “Robin” role next to whoever the “Batman” is. That wasn’t as clearly the case with Kupp, Robert Woods, and Brandin Cooks at one point. That’s true.
But we don’t know yet how that would work with McVay-Stafford-Kupp-Puka-Tutu Atwell. We just don’t know.
What we do know is that Puka’s role is working without Kupp and that’s the most important thing so far. Next will be seeing when Kupp is able to return, which is something that could be a mystery to everyone, including Kupp.