The Los Angeles Rams struggled immensely last season on both sides of the football, but their passing game was particularly appalling. There were issues with quarterbacks, injuries, game plans, and coaching, but many of the problems have since been addressed. With the 2017 season not that far off, the team is ready to begin working with a few new draft picks, a brand new offensive coordinator, and of course, new head coach Sean McVay.
Many names have already been discussed in the preceding organized team activities and mini-camp, but a closer look is warranted at such a pivotal position group.
The 2017 Los Angeles Rams Receiving Corps Will Be Greatly Improved
Wide receiver Tavon Austin got the big pay day last off-season, but he followed it with one of his poorest seasons to date. Veteran Kenny Britt was the surprise of the group, comfortably taking the number one spot from Austin. This off-season, he continued his bad luck streak by injuring his wrist and will now miss all team activities until training camp, pushing him even further from his number one spot. Combine this with the drafting of a multitude of options for quarterback Jared Goff and one can see Austin’s role in this offense begin to fade away.
However, there has been talk of a rumored spot in the offense much akin to that of DeSean Jackson in McVay’s Washington Redskins last season. This would lend to his speed and ability to track the ball on deep routes. Austin is very capable of filling this role, although it will not be the lead role and maybe not even worth his price tag. This is also assuming no rookie or undrafted free agent shows a better knack for that job description. Moreover, Austin will be able to be cut next year at only a cost of $5 million in dead money, so his exit could be imminent if his uses are unfound.
Robert Woods was the big receiver pick up for the Rams this off-season and he has all the makings to be the number one option, at the very least to start the season. His superb route-running and well-rounded skills will be a welcome addition to the unit and his experience could be his most valuable trait in the young group. Woods may not be the star talent that fans want, but he will be a solid foundation for the corps.
It is safe to say that Cooper Kupp, the Rams first wide receiver taken in this year’s draft is expected to be the rising star out of the new additions. The lightning-quick East Washington Eagle has the height and the hands to make an immediate impact for the team. Already a steal at his draft position, he is quickly becoming a central figure on this new-look squad. In fact, NFL Network’s Peter Shrager has even predicted Kupp could pick up 70 catches in his rookie season. Contemporary legend Steve Smith Sr. also named Kupp as his number one receiver in the 2017 draft. Kupp could very well be the jolt of talent the team needs to open up Goff and their previously dormant offense.
Perhaps the biggest news of this off-season has been the rise of second-year receiver Mike Thomas. Thomas had a lackluster debut, which included numerous drops and special teams’ errors, but this year he looks as if he is ready to change his reputation. Coach McVay has already noted his work ethic and Goff has complimented his speed in OTA’s. Considered a sleeper in last year’s draft, Thomas is primed to explode under a more confident Goff and a more complete offensive coaching staff.
Another rookie, Josh Reynolds out of Texas A&M, is also ready to make an impact. Though he would require a good amount of development, the receiver’s size and vertical ability are deadly for a red zone attack. Many are already predicting a breakout role for him in a unit primed for anyone to rise to the occasion. If that takes a little time, Reynolds can still be an X-factor for the team that can use his attributes to keep a defense unable to predict the next strike.
Rams fans were enamored with Nelson Spruce in last year’s preseason, but his heart-breaking injury left him forgotten soon after. The young University of Colorado standout is hard at work in his quest to jog that memory. He has a new set of coaches to impress, but Jared Goff is once again leaning on his penchant for making difficult catches. If it counts for anything, Spruce has also been appearing on social media profiles for Goff and tight end Tyler Higbee. If he does make the team and becomes an integral part, the chemistry will definitely be there.
Finally, there is Pharoh Cooper, who was expected to be a big factor last season, but like Thomas, fell short of projections. He also struggled on offense and special teams. Unfortunately, there is a new crop of targets this season and he will have to work that much harder to impress the staff. Cooper could be a casualty of camp if he cannot do just that. If not, he could rise on his cutting ability and crossing routes, which would be a perfect complement for the deep threats that McVay wants to incorporate.
The Rams are in a much better place in terms of receivers and a rapidly growing Goff is set to cash in on the new talent. These rising stars do not even include the tight ends, who under McVay, will be sure to see a good number of passes. As Los Angeles slowly becomes a football town once more, the Rams are in a solid position to bring in more fans and begin the process to become a contender once again. In a city that will be welcoming another NFL franchise this season, time is of the essence not simply for success, but for survival.