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 sit there and go, ‘Well, the only thing to do now is go for 2,500 yards and I’ll throw for 7,000. That’s unrealistic.”
But offensive coordinator Liam Coen knows one of the Rams’ offseason moves could not only make this offense more dangerous, but help Kupp as well. While Kupp and now-Rams wide receiver Allen Robinson II have been utilized differently in their careers, both receivers are so versatile, Coen said, the Rams can use variations of formations to move both around to different spots and create favorable matchups.
“Getting Cooper [Kupp] on a nickel, getting Allen [Robinson] on a backer and then switching those 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 that we had. But given that diversity that Allen brings to us, I definitely think that it will present some challenges to the defense.”
Coen said Robinson’s route tree is “extremely expanded from probably years ago, or maybe what we’ve had our other receivers do.”
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“I mean, he can run a lot of routes that Cooper can, you know — some of those option routes and choice routes and things that we asked Cooper to do — because he just has an unbelievable ability to play underneath himself,” Coen said.
Kupp had one of the best seasons a wide receiver in history — winning the receiving “triple crown” with 145 receptions for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns — and did so running 58% of his routes out of the slot, with Robert Woods or Odell Beckham Jr. playing opposite Van Jefferson on the outside. Still, Kupp was able to stretch seams and break through for big plays out of a position that isn’t known for them.
Last season with the Chicago Bears, 37.4% of the routes Robinson ran were in the slot. If the Rams are confident Robinson could take up some of the responsibility on the inside, it would give Kupp more room to occasionally operate on the outside. Without Woods or Beckham — at least to start the season — there will be a need for another vertical threat opposite Jefferson.
While Robinson is capable of doing that himself — he had 102 receptions for 1,250 yards and six touchdowns in 2020 before suffering through an illness- and injury-plagued 2021 — perhaps Coen and coach Sean McVay get creative, with Robinson and Kupp splitting that responsibility more than expected.
“He’s one of those bigger receivers that has body control of a smaller guy,” McVay said. “I’ve said this before, I bet you he’s really good when you play pickup basketball because he can get parallel, he can double-up, he has great body control. He has great ball skills.”
Robinson, who signed a three-year, $46 million contract with Los Angeles this offseason, spent the last four seasons with the Bears after breaking in with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The veteran receiver said he spent the spring workouts moving around and “learning the offense from many different spots on the field.”
“Now,” Robinson said during OTAs, “it’s just about building chemistry and learning more so of the nuances of things.”
Stafford didn’t throw during the offseason program as he recovers from a right elbow injury. Still, the quarterback said, one benefit to not being able to participate in every drill is he’s had more time to talk to Robinson on the sidelines and between plays.
“I’ve been very, very impressed with his ability to grasp our offense, his role in our offense,” Stafford said. “His understanding, even when he might miss something or mess something up, the reason is so sound on why he did something — he heard this and thought that, and I’m like, ‘That’s a great thought.’ It’s really productive growth for him in our offense.”
Coen said other than Robinson’s versatility, the receiver’s “unbelievable ability to double you up at the point of attack” stood out to him this spring.
“He really can work edges on you,” Coen said. “Lean and press away from you at the top of the routes. He has really good details, both in the release game and at the top of the routes.”
Robinson said he has already gotten a lot of help from Kupp, saying the pair is “always talking through those different things and really being very specific.” Last season, the Rams ranked seventh in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ passing DVOA. And although the Rams traded Woods and haven’t re-signed Beckham — at least not yet — Kupp said it’s been “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 into that.”