The National Football Conference (NFC) West Division has been on the rise as the last two division winners represented the Conference in Super Bowl LIII and LIV. The NFC West Division is debatably one of the most difficult divisions to be in, seeing that all four teams have assembled very talented rosters on paper and are led by exceptional coaching.
Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams come into the upcoming season with some question marks at some positions, but their receiving corps is and has been, a proven threat to any team they match up against.
How Does The Rams Receiving Corps Stack Up Against The NFC West?
Taking a look at the wide receivers on the depth chart, the Rams are led by two veteran playmakers: 8th year WR out of the University of Southern California (USC), Robert Woods, and 4th year WR out of Eastern Washington University, Cooper Kupp. Both players come into the 2020 season with a reputable career under their belts thus far.
While on pace for a breakout season in his second year, Kupp’s 2018 season was cut short by a torn ACL. This injury did not flood over to the 2019 season, however, as Kupp hauled in a team-high in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions: 1,161 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns (ranked 2nd in the NFL) off of 94 receptions. Kupp proved to be Jared Goff’s security option in all situations.
Robert Woods is coming off back-to-back thousand yard seasons and is expected to continue on a similar track for the 2020 season. Although he was not as productive as Cooper Kupp in the RedZone, only hauling in two touchdowns last season, Woods made up for it by ranking Top-10 in receiving yards per game in the league. He racked up 1,134 yards from 90 receptions. Both Woods and Kupp established themselves as a dependable duo for Goff.
Additionally, with the departure of WR Brandin Cooks, the Rams were looking to fill their WR3 spot during this past offseason. With the 57th overall pick in the 2020 draft, the Rams drafted WR Van Jefferson out of the University of Florida. Jefferson’s polished route running immediately stands out, which will bode well in McVay’s scheme.
Although his numbers are not off the charts, he backs his high draft position with consistency and reliability. He comes in as a high-ceiling prospect and many experts believe that he is in as good a situation that he could have asked for.
Another player to keep an eye out for is 4th year WR Josh Reynolds. He demonstrated significant growth throughout the 2018 season, especially considering he produced career-high numbers across the board (402 receiving yards, five touchdowns off of 29 receptions). Given his experience, Reynolds is expected to play a bigger role in this year’s offense and is likely to see more targets coming his way.
This Rams receiving corps will have some very exciting matchups against the NFC West secondary units. The San Francisco 49ers’ defense is amongst the best in almost every defensive category. They ranked 2nd in pass yards allowed per game, which can be credited by their menacing front-4 pass rush. The 49ers’ secondary is a solid unit, led by Richard Sherman and Jaquiski Tartt, however, they are not the anchor of this defense. They are both relatively average in all fairness. They signed Jason Verrett, 6th year CB from Texas Christian University (TCU), who has demonstrated flashes of potential, but ultimately is held back by an injury-plagued career.
The Rams’ wide receivers have the ability to be successful and put up numbers against the 49ers’ secondary, however, their success is contingent on how well the Rams’ offensive line is able to contain the 49ers’ pass rush. If Jared Goff is given a clean pocket, you can expect the Rams’ pass game to flourish in these two games.
Jared Goff and the Rams’ passing attack had their best performances against the Arizona Cardinals defense last season. On paper, the Cardinals secondary looks intriguing with guys like Patrick Peterson and Budda Baker, but they ranked 2nd worst in the league in terms of pass yards allowed per game. However, if their CB3 in Robert Alford is able to replicate the same productivity he saw back in 2017, the Cardinals’ pass defense may be able to make some strides here. Moreover, the addition of Isaiah Simmons will be beneficial to their pass rush and pass coverage.
In terms of individual man-to-man matchups, this Cardinals’ secondary has the ability to give the Rams’ receivers a hard time, but the past few seasons have shown that the Cardinals still have some problems defensively. I think this deep Rams receiving unit will be able to out man a secondary that is practically run by one player in Patrick Peterson.
The Seahawks’ secondary is arguably their weakest unit on the roster. Guys like Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers are starting to have people question how much longer the Seahawks are willing to experiment with them. Newly acquired CB Quandre Diggs is also facing off-the-field issues that may jeopardize his season with the Seahawks and potentially his career.
This secondary was ranked 24th against the pass last season, and there have not been any changes to this unit. They also struggled in pressuring opposing quarterbacks, ranking 29th in sacks last season. It seems like these defensive problems are what is holding the Seahawks back from regaining the identity they had when they won Super Bowl XLVIII. Due to this, I see no reason as to why this Rams offense, specifically their pass game, cannot explode with great production in these matchups.
The Los Angeles Rams’ wide receivers have been a solid source of stability for the team and create immense pressure against opposing defenses. The NFC West, although a very strong division, has three teams that are lacking in the secondary. Goff, Woods, Kupp, and the rest of the Rams’ passing attack should be drooling over these matchups; it is just a matter of how well they are able to execute on the field.
Will the Rams receiving corps live up these expectations?