Data shows Rams throw to Kupp/Higbee despite Robinson open

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Sometimes the eyes tell you something completely contrary to the consensus of talk regarding the LA Rams’ individual player performances. So far this season, my eyes have told me a completely different story than the consensus has been sharing on social media and in discussions that happened after articles, chat rooms, or forums.

Even though I have lobbied hard for the team to spread the wealth in terms of targets, to ensure that the wide receivers get a more level workload, the passes continued to sail in the direction of wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee.  While that was not only poor decision-making on the part of the Rams’ offensive plays but the insistence on repeating that tendency in each game has ensured that the Rams’ offense conformed to the defensive scheme.

The LA Rams have not only failed to anticipate and exploit the opposing defense completely disrespecting the running game and countered that by running the ball with authority. The Rams also continued to throw to the two receivers that defenses knew would be targeted weeks before facing the Rams.

Now we have the data to question that strategy with more than a gut feeling that it was a bad strategy.

Five Thirty-Eight data allow objective objections to Rams’ strategy

The Best NFL Receivers, According to ESPN Analytics, a recent report released this week, ranks the Top 100 NFL receivers this season, but does so in such a way that it allows a bit more discussion than just catches and yards.

This analysis gives a series of relative ratings that include categories of Yards per route, Openness, Catch rate, Yard After Catch, and finally Overall rating. By creating categories of openness, we can finally objectively assess the rationality of why the Rams target Kupp and Higbee over the likes of Allen Robinson. In the face of this data, they shouldn’t be.

  • Rank Player                  Posn    Yds   Rts  Tgts Yds/Rt Open Catch YAC Overall27     Cooper Kupp       WR      812  284   79     2.9     55       63      53     6157     Allen Robinson   WR      292  279   46     1.0     63       55      24     4957     Ben Skowronek  WR      245  251   38     1.0     64       45      34     4984     Tyler Higbee        TE        385  216    51    1.8     54       23       45     37

According to the 538 data made available from ESPN data analytics, both Robinson and Skowronek are more open than either Kupp or Higbee. And Robinson has a better catch rate than either Skowronek or Higbee.

Who is the most open receiver on the Rams roster? Clearly, the options are either Robinson or Skowronek, neither of whose names have been mentioned in conversations this season. And that’s a bit surprising. After all, knowing that defenses blanket Kupp this season, it never made sense that he was open more than Robinson as many had suggested. Now that we have data showing that was not the case, the reason for not throwing to Robinson must be another reason like play calling or quarterback preference.

The Rams must find some way to replace the production of WR Cooper Kupp. And the timing of this receiver data is perfectly suited to assuage Rams fans’ concerns going into Week 11. While there is no denying that Cooper Kupp is at an altogether different plateau, the Rams roster has plenty of receivers who can step up. The challenge so far this season has been the decision not to throw their way.

Well, the decision has been made now. The Rams must throw their way now. But by the looks of things, Allen Robinson will be open and waiting.

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