LA Rams using a 2-for-1 approach to recreate Cooper Kupp

Cooper Kupp's hamstring injury didn't stop the LA Rams from shredding the Seattle Seahawks through the air in Week 1, thanks to how two other wide receivers combined to replace the All-Pro.

The LA Rams used a 2-for-1 approach to replace Cooper Kupp vs. the Seattle Seahawks.
The LA Rams used a 2-for-1 approach to replace Cooper Kupp vs. the Seattle Seahawks. / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

The LA Rams entered Week 1 in need of a huge effort from their offense, but without star wide receiver Cooper Kupp, that was not going to be easy.

Replacing Cooper Kupp was never going to be easy, so LA Rams' head coach Sean McVay used a two-for-one approach to recreate his injured star wide receiver in Week 1. The results were spectacular, as wideouts Tutu Atwell and rookie Puka Nacua combined to shred the Seattle Seahawks during a hugely impressive 30-13 win on the road.

McVay helped Atwell and Nacua by keeping things simple. That meant using Atwell to stretch the field vertically, while relying on Nacua to work underneath and turn short passes into sizeable gains. Playing to the strengths of each receiver led to a long overdue statistical bonanza for the Rams' air attack.

Replacement duo matched rare franchise mark

Nacua and Atwell combined for 16 receptions and 238 yards. Those numbers came from 23 targets, eight for Atwell and 15 for Nacua, per Pro Football Reference. Ironically, both receivers accounted for 119 yards apiece on the a

In the process, this prolific partnership matched a Rams team mark last set over two decades ago when the franchise was still in St. Louis, according to StatMuse NFL.

For additional context, the pass-catching duo Atwell and Nacua matched were Rams legendary receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, who amassed 281 yards against the then-San Diego Chargers on November 10, 2002. Bruce and Holt are good company for any Rams' receiver to keep, and Nacua and Atwell should continue piling up the numbers, based on how they were used against the Seahawks.

Rookie dominated underneath

Short-area targets formed the foundation of McVay's gameplan for former BYU standout Nacua. As Next Gen Stats detailed, the fifth-round pick in the 2023 NFL draft saw "most of his production come in the short area (0-9 air yards), where he caught 6 of 9 targets for 64 yards."

Using Nacua to win underneath hit like a double whammy against Seattle's defense. First, it condensed the Seahawks' zones once head coach Pete Carroll saw he needed to move coverage closer to Nacua. Fortunately for the Rams, that only created another problem.

Trying to press Nacua didn't work because the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder couldn't be bodied by any Seahawks' defender. It meant the newest weapon at McVay's disposal replicated the way Kupp usually wins from the slot and between the numbers.

Thriving on inside routes is only one part of Kupp's game, though. No. 10 is also an underrated vertical threat, evidenced by a career average of 12.6 yards per reception.

Nacua wasn't going to take the top off of the Seattle defense the same way, but he didn't need to because the Rams knew how to unleash Atwell's speed.

Rams found right formula for Atwell

Atwell posted catches of 11, 15, 21 and 44 yards. The biggest of those gains owed everything to an imaginative design from McVay and his staff, highlighted by Nate Tice of The Athletic.

This is a play Kupp could have run. It was also a concept Tice's colleague Jourdan Rodrigue revealed the Rams ran "a lot" during offseason practice.

Putting in a play like this for Atwell shows a commitment to unleashing his awesome play speed more often. A more secure marriage of scheme and athleticism will help Atwell grow into a major role this season.

Atwell's continued emergence will be vital if the Rams are going to be able to build on a winning start without Kupp. Fortunately, McVay and quarterback Matthew Stafford won't be reliant on Atwell alone.

Not when Nacua is also on hand to help the Rams recreate how their triple crown winner attacks defenses at every level of the field.