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NFL Draft

Matthew Stafford/Cooper Kupp Connection Here To Stay

  • The Draft Network
  • October 2, 2021
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We’re three games into the “Matthew Stafford is a Los Angeles Ram” era, and one thing has become abundantly clear: he and Cooper Kupp are clicking.

Kupp is in his fifth year with the Rams and his first without Jared Goff under center. He’s always been a productive player, but he hasn’t been widely considered to be one of the NFL’s elite-tier receivers. Sure, he’s been one of the league’s best slot receivers, but that still left him as an under-the-radar, middle-of-the-pack type overall with just one 1,000-yard season. That season, his 2019 year, has been the best of his career so far, with career highs in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns. We’re three weeks into 2021, and Kupp is on pace to obliterate those numbers. For instance, his five touchdowns this season already have him halfway to his career high… and it’s been three weeks.

It’s not like his numbers this year are only impressive relative to his career; he’s straight-up been one of the NFL’s best receivers in 2021. Kupp is tied for the league lead in receptions (with Davante Adams at 25) and he’s the sole leader in receiving yards (367) and receiving touchdowns. He’s by far Stafford’s most targeted receiver with 33 targets; his closest competition, Robert Woods, is at a distant 19.

What’s made Stafford and Kupp so successful is the ways in which the Rams’ offense has been able to evolve with Stafford’s arrival. Where Goff struggled with the deep ball, Stafford and his cannon arm thrive. Through three weeks, we’ve been able to see how head coach Sean McVay has changed his offense to give the former Lion a chance to show that off. It’s been to Kupp’s benefit, as he isn’t limited to short action over the middle of the field from the slot anymore. We’ve already started to see him working the sidelines and getting more vertical with his new quarterback. As a result, his yards per target is another stat on pace to blow by his previous career high. On top of that, Kupp’s ability to create yards after the catch makes him an even more productive target for Stafford and the Rams.

The Stafford-to-Kupp connection wasn’t one that just blossomed overnight. In fact, we could have seen this coming. The fifth-year receiver was instrumental in helping Stafford work through play concepts throughout training camp, helping him learn the playbook along with McVay. The two also put in extra work early on to establish “choice” concepts on route trees almost as soon as the newcomer arrived at Rams camp. We got to see some of that extra work—as well as Kupp’s high route-running/football IQ—in regular-season action against Tampa Bay last weekend, when Kupp broke out his “Ocho” route on this touchdown play.

The receiver begins with what looks like a routine, five-yard out route before breaking down and chopping his feet to look like he’ll make a move back inside. The move gets the cornerback to break inside, and before it’s even clear the inside move was a deke, Stafford throws to Kupp’s outside shoulder as the receiver breaks back out. All Kupp had to do then was beat his defender to the pylon for the score. Stafford’s throw and timing there on what’s been credited as a Kupp-designed play make it abundantly clear these two have the chemistry to be a big problem for opposing defenses this season.

Three weeks into 2021, it sure seems like McVay’s ability to build an offense around the strengths of the players he has is stronger than ever. Adding Stafford gave the Rams a deep ball passing threat that they never had with Goff, and we’ve already seen plenty of the former showing it off. In response, Kupp’s role has shifted to allow him to use his strengths in tandem with his quarterback’s to create an incredibly productive QB-WR duo, one of the NFL’s best through three weeks.

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