The Los Angeles Rams were on pace for three 1,000 yard receivers last season. Then disasters struck. Second-year player Cooper Kupp tore his ACL on a routine play against the Seattle Seahawks. Kupp has not only become a fan favorite but a favorite target of quarterback Jared Goff. After suffering a significant injury, it begs the question of whether or not Kupp will return as the same player in 2019.
Cooper Kupp Round-Upp
When the Rams drafted Kupp with the 69th pick in the 2017 draft, some fans didn’t know who he was. The former Eastern Washington Eagle amassed 428 catches, 6,484 yards, and 73 touchdowns in his four years – record-breaking numbers.
Kupp broke Eastern Washington’s receptions record, touchdown record, and receiving yardage record for a collegiate career in his tenure at the program. The question coming out of college for Kupp was the quality of competition he faced in his time in the FCS.
In his rookie NFL season, Kupp hauled in 62 receptions for 869 yards and became the Rams’ budding star in the slot. The combo of Kupp, Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins rivaled the best trios in the league, and Kupp surprised a lot of people with his play. The former Eastern Washington star averaged 9.4 yards per target and quickly became Goff’s favorite receiver, especially on third down. Kupp was the fourth-most targeted wide receiver in the NFL on third and fourth down in 2017 according to Pro Football Focus.
Kupp’s second season was going to be more of the same. The Rams traded for and locked up speedster Brandin Cooks. Kupp started off the season hot. In the eight games that he played, the former Eastern Washington Eagle recorded six touchdowns, 566 yards, 40 receptions, and raised his catch percentage from 66% to 72.7%.
Kupp was on pace for over 1,000 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 80 receptions. However, he never got the chance to have an entirely healthy season. In the week eight matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, Kupp left the game early with an apparent knee injury. It ended up what everyone feared – a tear to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).
Cooper Kupp’s Impact
The Rams suffered when Kupp exited the starting lineup for the rest of the season. Jared Goff’s percentages on third down-dropped, and the team, especially offensively, wasn’t as efficient.
In games Kupp played, Goff completed 69.6 percent of his passes, threw for 329 yards per game, averaging 9.7 yards per attempt. The Rams quarterback had a touchdown-interception ration of 17 touchdowns to six interceptions.
Without the slot-receiver, Goff’s completion percentage dropped to 59 percent. His yards per game also took a massive hit, dropping to 247 yards per game with 6.9 yards per attempt. Goff’s touchdown to interception ratio without Kupp was 16 touchdowns to eight interceptions.
Goff’s play saw a significant drop without Kupp. This drop-off remains the case in the Pro Football Focus numbers as well. In Weeks 1-10 with Kupp, Goff had a grade of 92.0. The following nine games with Kupp sidelined, Goff’s overall grade dropped over 26.0 points to 65.3.
The Rams simply didn’t have that threat over the middle of the field that Kupp brought. Gerald Everett saw an uptick in targets as well as Tyler Higbee, but neither was the threat that Kupp was.
The apparent halt in the system didn’t stop the Rams from making the Super Bowl, but Kupp might’ve put them over the top.
What’s Next For Cooper Kupp
ACL repair and rehab can take up to nine months to fully complete, and Cooper Kupp is well on his way towards a full recovery. Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers was a realistic goal when the injury occurred, and that still appears to be the target date.
Sean McVay has been quoted saying Kupp is “on track” and Kupp himself has stated that he feels good midway through his rehab.
“I can’t predict how I’m going to feel even a week from now. But the way that things are going, I’m happy with the way that things are trending. Each week there’s progress.” –Cooper Kupp
If Kupp does play in Week 1 as planned, his stats could look similar to his 2018 outburst. Kupp being back on the field will help the entire offense.
Goff will undoubtedly go back to targeting Kupp on third downs and in the red zone, and McVay will have more flexibility in his play-calling. Kupp was graded as the 29th best overall receiver in the league when he played in 2018 according to Pro Football Focus.
A top-tier threat such as Kupp coming back to full form will help the Rams offense stay at the top of league rankings once again. Even if Kupp takes a slow approach to his comeback, he will have an impact.
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman tore his ACL in Week 3 of the preseason in 2017 and went on to have a productive year last season. In 2016, Keenan Allen suffered a torn ACL in Week 1 and returned in 2017 to have a career-year.
Those two players are both primary slot receivers who have torn their ACLs over the past two years only to return to have an impact the following season. Neither injury occurred as late as Kupp’s did, but given his current trajectory, Kupp should see no setbacks.
Jared Goff and the Rams offense should be a top-level threat once Kupp returns, and have a real shot to repeat their run from 2018.
Kupp’s rehab is going to be a process, and he shouldn’t be rushed back. It would be shocking to see him play at all in the preseason. However, when he returns, the Rams should expect a fully healthy player that will have an immediate impact.
The Rams need Kupp on the field to make another run at a potential NFC Title. As long as he is healthy, the team can expect wins.