THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford was asked how he and wide receiver Cooper Kupp could possibly top their success from last season.
Stafford joked: “You can’t just sit there and say, ‘Well, the only thing to do now is go 2,500 yards and I’ll throw 7,000. That’s not realistic.
But offensive coordinator Liam Coen knows one of the Rams’ moves this offseason could not only make this offense more dangerous, but also help Kupp. While Kupp and now Rams receiver Allen Robinson II have been used differently in their careers, both receivers are so versatile, Coen said, that the Rams can use variations in formations to move both to different places and create favorable matches.
“Get Cooper [Kupp] on a nickel, get Allen [Robinson] on a backer and then changing these guys,” Coen said. ” And vice versa. We think it will be difficult to defend and it was obviously difficult to defend [Kupp] over the last few years and having the kind of guys we had. But given this diversity that Allen brings to us, I really think it will present some challenges for the defense.”
Coen said Robinson’s routing tree has been “extremely large for probably years, or maybe what our other receivers have.”
“I mean, he can do a lot of routes that Cooper can, you know – some of those option and choice routes and things that we asked Cooper to do – because he just has an incredible ability. to play under himself,” Coen said.
Kupp had one of the best seasons by a wide receiver in history — winning the receiving “triple crown” with 145 receptions for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns — and did so while running 58% of his hauls out of the slot, with either Robert Woods or Odell Beckham Jr. playing opposite Van Jefferson on the outside. Still, Kupp was able to stretch the seams and drill for big plays from a position not known to them.
Last season with the Chicago Bears, 37.4% of routes Robinson ran were in the slot. If the Rams are confident that Robinson could take some of the responsibility on the inside, that would give Kupp more room to occasionally operate on the outside. Without Woods or Beckham – at least to start the season – it will take another vertical threat against Jefferson.
While Robinson is capable of doing that on his own — he had 102 receptions for 1,250 yards and six touchdowns in 2020 before suffering illness and injury plagued 2021 — perhaps Coen and coach Sean McVay get creative, with Robinson and Kupp sharing that responsibility more than expected.
“He’s one of those bigger receivers that controls a smaller guy’s body,” McVay said. “I said it before, I bet you he’s really good when you’re playing basketball because he can parallel, he can double up, he has great body control. He has great skills with the ball. “
Robinson, who signed a three-year, $46 million contract with Los Angeles this offseason, has spent the past four seasons with the Bears after breaking up with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The veteran wide receiver said he spent spring training moving around and “learning the offense in a lot of different places on the field.”
“Now,” Robinson said during OTAs, “it’s just about building the chemistry and learning more about the nuances of things.”
Stafford did not pitch during the offseason program as he recovers from a right elbow injury. Still, the quarterback said, one of the benefits of not being able to participate in every drill is that he had more time to talk to Robinson on the sidelines and between plays.
“I was very, very impressed with his ability to grasp our attack, his role in our attack,” Stafford said. “His understanding, even when he might be missing something or messing up something, the reason is so solid as to why he did something – he heard this and thought that, and I was like, ‘That’s a good idea. It’s really productive growth for him in our attack.”
Coen said that outside of Robinson’s versatility, the receiver’s “incredible ability to double-cross you on the offensive end” stood out for him this spring.
“It can really work on you,” Coen said. “Lean in and press away from you at the top of the routes. It has really good detail, both in the exit set and at the top of the routes.”
Robinson said he’s had a lot of help from Kupp already, saying the duo “always talk about these different things and are really, really on point.” Last season, the Rams ranked seventh in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ DVOA run. And although the Rams have traded Woods and haven’t re-signed Beckham — at least not yet — Kupp said it was “great” to work with Robinson.
“It’s been so much fun to be able to collaborate with him,” Kupp said. “There’s a lot of potential for us to be able to do some really special things, but we have to stack the blocks day by day and build that.”