Los Angeles Rams: Cooper Kupp Becoming Elite With Matthew Stafford

by Blaine Grisak
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When it comes to Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, he’s always been underrated. Despite ranking ninth in receiving yards and second in receiving touchdowns, Kupp has never been named all-pro or made a Pro Bowl. Since entering the league in 2017, Kupp ranks 15th in receiving yards and 11th in receiving touchdowns. It should also be noted that Kupp missed half of 2018.

Kupp has just one 1,000 yard season in his career, but was just 26 yards shy last season and shares a lot of targets with fellow Rams wide receiver Robert Woods.

Through two games this season, the third round pick out of Eastern Washington seems to be on another level. Now in his fifth season, Kupp is looking to take that step from really good, consistent wide receiver to among the league’s best. Playing in an offense that has unlocked its full potential with quarterback Matthew Stafford, Kupp has reaped the benefits.

Cooper Kupp’s 271 yards are the third most through the first two weeks of a season in Rams franchise history. That number trails just Isaac Bruce’s 323 in 1998 and Henry Ellard’s 329 in 1989.

Cooper Kupp Among The League’s Best

Kupp ranks third in the league in receptions and receiving touchdowns right now and also ranks third in yards behind only Tyler Lockett and Deebo Samuel. To put it lightly, Kupp is having a great start in year five with the Los Angeles Rams.

A deeper look into the analytics tells a similar story. According to Football Outsiders, Kupp ranks first among wide receivers in DYAR. This gives the value of the performance on plays where this Kupp caught the ball, compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage. He also ranks first in effective yards which translates DVOA into a yards per attempt figure.

Additionally, Kupp’s 42.59 offensive value metric grade ranks eighth in the NFL, but leads every single notable wide receiver. In other words, among notable wide receivers like DeAndre Hopkins, DeVante Adams, etc., Kupp is the most valuable wide receiver in the NFL.

Among some of the most important stats, Kupp ranks at or near the top.

Benefitting From Matthew Stafford

It’s fair to say that nobody has benefitted more with the Los Angeles Rams from the Matthew Stafford trade than Cooper Kupp. The two have developed a rapport and chemistry that we haven’t seen in the Rams franchise in a long time.

Said Stafford, “I think he’s a really talented player. He understands the game really well. He’s one of those guys that’s about as overlooked as anybody in the league. He’s a really talented player, and I’m just happy that I get to work with him.”

Kupp has always played a large role in the Rams offense. Even with Jared Goff under center, he was that safety blanket that could be relied on and pick up yards after the catch. Kupp remains a YAC God, ranking third in the NFL in average yards after the catch per reception. However, with Stafford, Kupp’s game has taken that next step and people around the league are taking notice.

Cooper Kupp Doing the Little Things Well

The tell tale signs of a top wide receiver is the ability to take over games and the ability to do the little things well. Cooper Kupp did just that on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. When no other Los Angeles Rams wide receiver seemed able to make a play, Kupp was there to be relied on.

In the first quarter, it was Kupp who caught the touchdown. During a four-play sequence on that drive:

1-and-10: Lines up next to the left tackle, blocks 265-lb Kwitty Paye.

2-and-8: Lines up wide, gains 13 yards on screen.

1-and-10: Lines up next to right tackle, blocks 267-lb Tyquan Lewis.

2-and-6: Lines up at running back, catches 16 yard touchdown.

A lot of wide receivers don’t block. Cooper Kupp meanwhile, blocks like a tight end.

On the field goal drive in the second quarter, Kupp caught a pass on 3rd-and-10 to put the Rams in field goal range and keep the drive alive. To start the second half, Kupp took a screen 43-yards to put the Rams on the Colts 31-yard line.

When the Los Angeles Rams were trailing after the punt fiasco, Kupp caught a 44-yard pass from Stafford to put the offense inside the red zone. On the next play, Kupp caught his second touchdown of the afternoon to put the Rams back in the lead. Finally, on the game-winning field goal drive, Kupp once again caught a key pass on 3rd-and-1 and took it for a first down.

Playing Big in the Big Moments

“Obviously Cooper Kupp was big time,” said Sean McVay. “I thought it was big to be able to get one run in there and then on the first-and-goal, to be able to quickly get through something and hit Cooper for what ended up kind of putting us back in front, that was big time.”

This season, 11 of Kupp’s 16 receptions have gone for first downs.

“He’s extremely talented,” said Stafford. “(He) does everything that we ask him to do, whether it’s blocking for his other guys on the team, whether it be receivers or running backs, running down the field making big plays, catching the ball behind the line of scrimmage and going for big plays.”

His route-running remains unmatched. Against the Colts, Kupp averaged 4.4 yards of separation. On eight of his 11 targets, Kupp had at least three yards of separation, catching all of them for 153 yards and a touchdown. While he’s not seen as a speed demon, Kupp reached 20.7 mph on his 43-yard reception. His ability to manipulate his speed makes him really special.

Film Review

Play #1

There are a few plays that I want to get to that fully show what Cooper Kupp is doing on the field and why he’s so effective. The first play comes on the Los Angeles Rams’ opening touchdown against the Colts. First of all, let’s recognize Kupp releasing as a running back in the backfield.

This might have been a play in past McVay years that would have seen Todd Gurley run this route. Here, Kupp releases out of the backfield and keeps the safety guessing the entire route. It’s hard to see not in All-22, but you can see at the end of the play, Kupp has put the safety on his back. Again, just goes to show the route-running of Kupp and how special it is.

Play #2

There are few better at explaining tap than Matt Waldman. The route concept drawn up by McVay is perfect for this coverage. However, Kupp is a big reason for why he’s so open. Earlier I discussed how Kupp does a great job of manipulating his speeds. While he has the ability to run over 20 mph on any given play, it’s the plays that he doesn’t that might be more impressive.

That’s the case here. Kupp knows what the coverage is going to be and knows that he has to give Jefferson time to pass him on the route in order to beat the coverage. Kupp’s release was slow coming off the line and then turned on the jets and turned up field to pass the defensive back. It’s the little nuances in Kupp’s game that a quarterback like Stafford can take advantage of and help him get to that next level.

Play #3

The last play that I’ll highlight is a screen. While Los Angeles Rams fans may get frustrated at McVay for calling them, this is why he does. Fast forward to the :43 second mark in the video. Kupp hard sells a ‘go’ and the defensive back is completely sold. Two things make this happen. First is of course Kupp’s route-running ability. He doesn’t this cushion if the defensive back isn’t sold that he’s going deep.

The second is the threat of a quarterback who can and will throw deep. Last season, the Rams offense was very congested Through two weeks, Stafford’s intended average air yards is 8.4. That’s almost two yards more than Goff last season.

By the time Kupp catches the ball, the defensive back is 6-8 yards off of the line of scrimmage away from Kupp. This gives Woods space to get upfield and get on his block. 43 yards later and the Rams are in scoring range and in position to take a two score lead to start the second half.

Conclusion

It’s only two weeks, but Cooper Kupp is off to a very good start in 2021. He’s Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded wide receiver.

While Kupp has always been a top-20 wide receiver, if he continues this level, he’ll solidify himself inside the top-10, if not the top-5.

 

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