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Is there any silver lining to be found with the Cooper Kupp injury?

The Rams are better with Kupp on the field, but could his absence now be a benefit towards the end of the season?

Los Angeles Rams v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

There was some metaphorical wind taken out of the Los Angeles Rams fan’s sails when it was announced yesterday that Cooper Kupp would not be available Week 1, and potentially past that if placed on IR.

While LA is clearly better with Kupp on the field, and any benefits gained by this injury do not out weight what he’d be able to do for the Rams on the field, there may be some potential things to gain with Matthew Stafford’s favorite target out.

Timing may work out as good as it could have

The biggest positive to Kupp’s absence is that sitting him now may extend his playtime later in the season and past 2023. Hamstring injuries are ones that linger, and it has already flared up once since his initial injury in training camp. While it’s a bummer to lose Kupp, the fact of the matter is the Rams start to the season is brutal with or without him.

Four out of the five teams Los Angeles plays were in the playoffs last year including the Seahawks, 49ers, Bengals and Super Bowl appearing Philadelphia Eagles. If LA is going to lose Kupp for a few games, I would rather it be during a stretch that they were going to probably struggle with anyways, instead of later in the season during games they should win like Arizona, New Orleans and Washington.

Van Jefferson more prepared to take over bigger role this time

Unlike last year when Kupp went down after nine games, the Rams new temporary number one receiver, Van Jefferson, is not recovering from an injury this time around. Reports out of camp were that Stafford and Jefferson were connecting early and often, which is much different than last year as Jefferson was out all of 2022 camp with a knee injury, and never built a good rapport with Stafford, who was also going through his own elbow injury.

This time around Stafford and Jefferson are both healthy, along with the offensive line. The Rams used 13 different offensive lineman combinations last season, an NFL record that no team would wish to hold, and one Los Angeles will need to avoid this season if they hope to have success.

Better opportunities for WR depth

Kupp’s injury, especially if it’s extended past week one, will force Stafford to gain chemistry with not just Jefferson, but rookie Puka Nacua, tight end Tyler Higbee, former Raven DeMarcus Robinson and 3rd year wideout, Tutu Atwell.

Atwell finally getting a starting position could be very telling for the future of the Rams wide receiver room, and is even more magnified now because of Kupp’s absence.

With Kupp out, head coach Sean McVay and brass should get a true answer on who Atwell is after two disappointing seasons. For some reason, McVay has been hesitant to use Atwell since drafting him in the 2nd round of the 2021 draft. However, it looks like Atwell has been given the trust to be a starter this season, and with the Kupp injury, McVay really has no choice now.

He’ll get a chance to take the field with Stafford instead of Baker Mayfield and, hopefully, a consistent offensive line - two things he did not have much of in 2022. In theory, this is Tutu’s chance to prove he can succeed at the NFL level or show the Rams that they need to move on. The same can be said about Van Jefferson, who is in a contract year and has been plagued by injury.

Play calling impacted

Another effect of Kupp’s injury to take into account is the play calling. In the past, Sean McVay has been known to give up on the run early in games. Without Kupp, it may force McVay and offensive coordinator, Mike LaFleur, to rely on tailback Cam Akers more.

Akers is also in the final year of his rookie contract. After almost being traded at the deadline last year, Los Angeles recommitted to Akers and he answered the call, totaling 345 yards and 3 touchdowns in just the last three games to finish 2022 on a positive note.

This offseason, Akers has talked about bulking up for 2023. He has always seemed like a back that did better getting in a rhythm with a high volume of touches, rather than coming on and off the field. With only Kyren Williams, Zach Evans and Ronnie Rivers behind him, Akers looks to be the guy getting the bulk of the carries this season and that bodes well for his style. Akers ended 2022 strong behind a very shaky offensive line filled with backups, so it should be interesting to see how he plays in what could be a much improved run game.

Cooper Kupp’s injury is going to have an effect on the Rams season no matter what, especially if it extends past week one. Whether it’s devastating for the rest of the year or not will remain to be seen.