Los Angeles Rams: NFL Analyst Expects Puka Nacua to Remain Top WR Despite Healthy Kupp

Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In his latest article, State of the 2024 Los Angeles Rams, NFL.com writer Adam Rank highlighted Puka Nacua as the most important non-QB on the team, even with Cooper Kupp expected to be fully healthy to start the upcoming season. As Rank put it, “Kupp will still factor into the mix, but it’s Puka time now.” Rank compared the transition from Kupp to Nacua to the one from Issac Bruce to Torry Holt

Just a few years removed from winning the pass catchers Triple Crown, Kupp is now being thought of, for the first time in his career as a solidly #2 receiver. Even in his early days when he was paired with the likes of Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, Kupp was thought of as a 1 or 1b option in the Rams offense.

It’s hard to argue with the logic of Rank’s thinking, as that seemed to be the case even last season when Kupp was healthy. But in reality, Kupp was used almost as much as Nacua was last year, Kupp was targeted 8 times per game and Nacua was targeted 9.5 times per game.

Kupp’s Future in the Los Angeles Rams Offense

NFL: Los Angeles Rams OTA
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The perception that Cooper Kupp is on the decline within the offense is because of a few factors. One; Kupp has missed significant time over the last two seasons. This recency bias cuts both ways, as Nacua took the league by storm just nine months ago. The last time the broad public saw Kupp he was the league’s best and highest-used receiver. He had 12 percent more targets than the next-highest-targeted receiver in the league in 2021. He had more targets than Van Jefferson, Odell Beckham Jr, and Ben Skowronek combined in that season. Kupp essentially set the bar impossibly high for himself, then disappeared due to injury and a historic Nacua season.

That kind of usage was never sustainable given Kupp’s style of play. Something had to give. And Kupp’s body was what gave out. He said on the Games with Names podcast that this is the first full offseason since 2021 that he is completely healthy.

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“You can’t put enough value on just that that time and the preparation it takes to get your body right to go make this push,” Kupp said about the importance of offseason training.

“It’s dang near impossible. You play those these long seasons and your body is so broken down there’s so much just to build up just to get back to where you were physically and then all the armor you got to put on to prepare yourself. All the conditioning, the things you got to do to create some change in your body to be able to take the adaptation from this offseason. Going into OTAs and say ‘okay now we’re we’re going to grind through OTAs then you get one month to basically to gear up for training camp, then a 17 Game season. Plus playoffs. So it’s a big deal.”

NFL: Los Angeles Rams OTA
Los Angeles Rams: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports