What do Secretariat, Seattle Slew, American Pharoah, and Cooper Kupp all have in common? They are names of those who pursued the Triple Crown. Of course, the first three are names of thoroughbred horses who accomplished the feat. Cooper Kupp is an NFL receiver in pursuit of that distinction in 2021.
The LA Rams may have made moves to bolster both the offense and the defense by midseason and may have stabilized the free-fall nature of their special teams unit as well. Despite all those moves, the front-runner weapon in this offense may be already here and has been all season.
In fact, LA Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp is not just the front-runner for the team, but he is the front-runner for the entire NFL. So far in front, in fact, that he is leading the NFL in all three categories that a receiver produces on a football field: Receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.
That feat is seldom accomplished by one player in any given season. So rare, it’s only happened three times in the Super Bowl era, the last time by Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, 16 years ago.
Kupp is having a career-high season, and it’s only at the halfway point. His 10 touchdown catches tie his best in 2019, his 1019 yards only trail his 2019 career-best by 142 yards, and his 74 receptions are just 20 shy of his peak of 94 catches, also set in 2019. Even as we expect the other shoe to drop and Kupp to struggle, he has not yet had a letdown like that in any of his games this season.
NFC West plays Kupp tough
The closest he came was the five of 13 catches for just 64 yards that he put up against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4. Of course, that was early in the season, when quarterback Matthew Stafford had not yet settled into this offense.
The Rams offensive star will be counted on even more to get the Rams to the playoffs. With the team entering the second half of the 2021 NFL season, the Rams will face tougher defenses and stiffer competition.
The San Francisco 49ers have particularly played Kupp very tough. In two games in 2020, he caught just five of 14 passes for 52 yards. In two games from 2019, he caught eight of 10 passes for 48 yards and one touchdown. In 2021, Kupp will attempt to overcome those struggles and lead the LA Rams to their eighth win of the season before their BYE Week.
In 1990, WR Jerry Rice had 100 receptions, 1502 yards, and 13 TD receptions in 16 games for the San Francisco 49ers. In 1992, Sterling Sharpe had 108 receptions, 1,461 yards, and 13 touchdowns in 16 games for the Green Bay Packers. In 2005, Steve Smith had 103 receptions, 1,563 yards, and 12 touchdowns in 16 games.
Right now, Cooper Kupp is tracking at 140 receptions, 1,925 yards, and 19 TD receptions in 17 games. Of course, his season will not generate yards, TDs, and catches in a straight line. Still, his season is good enough to get far more buzz than it’s getting so far.