Last April, the Los Angeles Rams front office letdown much of the fanbase when they drafted wide receiver TuTu Atwell in the second round. The reason this was a let down is that they took Atwell over center Creed Humphrey. While Creed Humphrey went on to have one of the best rookie seasons for a center in league history, TuTu Atwell spent the second half of the season on injured reserve.
The Rams selected a No. 4 or No. 5 wide receiver who needed a specific role to succeed. Meanwhile, with Austin Corbett one year away from free agency and having not re-signed Austin Blythe, the Rams really could have used a center. Whenever Brian Allen struggled or TuTu Atwell didn’t see the field, echos of Creed Humphrey kept on coming up in the fanbase.
However, one year later, we still can’t change the Atwell pick. The Rams have TuTu Atwell. The fanbase is better off supporting him than wishing for a player that will likely never wear horns. Atwell spent the second half of last season on injured reserve and never fully got the opportunity to show what he can do.
At the beginning of the year, the Los Angeles Rams started with a deep wide receiver room. However, with the injury to Robert Woods and the team cutting DeSean Jackson, the room got thinner as the year went on. It got so thin that Ben Skowronek became a consistent contributor on offense.
Atwell wasn’t as pro ready as Van Jefferson coming out of college. It was always going to take time with Atwell. He was going to need a specific type of role for him to find early success. However, had he been healthy, there’s little doubt Atwell would have contributed as a rookie.
Many forget that Atwell actually had a very good rookie preseason and showed promise. It was clear that when he was on the field, he was one of the best players going up against second and third stringers. Atwell led the NFL with 18 receptions last year during the preseason and had 129 receiving yards. His 2.9 yards after the catch per reception ranked 9th.
Preseason stats should be taken with a grain of salt. However, Atwell was catching passes from John Wolford and Bryce Perkins and was still dominating the competition. For a player of Atwell’s caliber, that’s at the very least a positive sign. In that spot, you would like to see Atwell have success rather than struggling to get open against less talent. Watching the film, you can also see how willing Atwell was to get physical in the run game and how much defenses respected his speed.
think Kyle Fuller felt a little uncomfortable with Tutu Atwell's speed up top? pic.twitter.com/sEzjOl2PEH
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) August 31, 2021
Even though he only played 10 snaps on offense in the regular season, Atwell got much need experience as a returner. Coming into the NFL it was thought that Atwell could contribute as a punt returner. This was because the Los Angeles Rams had a need at the position. This was despite the fact that he only had four punt returns in his entire college career.
Still, Atwell had 10 punt returns last season to go with five kickoff returns. Atwell’s 17.4 yards per kickoff return ranked third on the team among players with at least five returns on the kickoff. The Rams rookie only averaged 5.4 yards per punt return. Atwell wasn’t perfect, but given that this wasn’t something that he did in college, that should have been expected.
Returner is a position that should be Brandon Powell‘s spot to lose moving forward. However, despite the fanbase being so adamant that Atwell would be returner in the NFL, many have already given up on him in this spot despite limited opportunity.
Heading into 2022, Atwell is an intriguing player to watch. He’ll be someone with a lot of eyes watching him during training camp and the preseason. Everyone knows what he’s capable of, they just need to see it in action when it matters. If he can stay healthy, we should get some of that this season.
One spot that Atwell could see some looks is on jet sweeps and handoffs. In 2019 and 2020, the Los Angeles Rams offense had 29 and 32 carries go to wide receivers. Last season, that number dropped to 19. A lot of that 40% drop off had to do with Robert Woods’ injury. However, that’s a role that Atwell could certainly take on this season.
At Louisville, especially in 2019, Atwell produced an otherworldly 10.7 yards yards per route run on his 20 jet sweep tap passes. He also had multiple touchdowns in his college career on pop pass and jet sweep looks. According to Pro Football Focus, on these plays he had a grade of 94.3. This number ranked first in the country regardless of how many targets.
That also doesn’t mention Atwell’s ability down the field as a deep threat.
It’s fair for Rams fans to see TuTu Atwell and think Tavon Austin. However, this coaching staff should be trusted much more with developing Atwell than the previous one did developing Austin. The fact is, we haven’t seen what TuTu Atwell can do. Given that he wasn’t as ready as other wide receiver prospects, the Rams second round pick didn’t see a lot of opportunities when he was healthy. That doesn’t mean that he’s a bust eight games into his NFL career.
Atwell will likely not be a featured wide receiver in the Los Angeles Rams offense and will remain WR4 or WR3b/c. Still, that doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t contribute. It’s far too early to give up on TuTu Atwell. While he spent most of his rookie season hurt, he remains one of the more intriguing offensive weapons for the Rams heading into year two.
TuTu will get his chance. He’s putting in the work. Hope it pays off. One more arrow in McVays’ quiver of offensive weapons…a REALLY FAST arrow!! HORNS UP🤘💪❤️
Tutu is going to put his haters in check,the kid just needed some more time. He has everything to gain….