Puka Nacua Missed Thursday’s Rams Practice: What Does It Mean For Week 2 And Beyond?

Midway through the 4th quarter of the Rams Week 1 game, Puka Nacua hauled in what may have been his most impressive catch of a day filled with impressive catches. It was a 30-yard out route in which Nacua lept to make the catch; fully extended from toes to fingertips. He secured the ball and then hit the turf. He looked to be in a certain amount of pain, but he was down for just a beat before bouncing up and jogging back to the huddle.

Puka Nacua

Considering the catch he made, Nacua’s expression and demeanor were less than representative of the big play he just made. Was that when he injured his oblique? Possibly, but it is hard to say. While making catch after catch is exciting, his kind of usage means a lot of contact; with the ground and huge humans whose job is to physically impede. Especially with how the Rams like to operate, which is over the middle of the field. Eight of his 10 catches came in the short and intermediate middle of the field. So contact does come from just one defender, but often two or three.

Guys that make their living that way in the NFL get hurt. Cooper Kupp did last season. Deebo Samuel and George Kittle are regular members of the 49ers injury report. It’s a part of the cost of doing business that way. Especially, if that guy is targeted in the way that Stafford has targeted Kupp and now Nacua. Kupp’s target share was around 33 percent last season and through one game, Nacuas was nearly 40 percent.

Puka Nacua’s Injury History

What makes it even more rough in this particular situation is that Puka Nacua has a history of getting hurt. Nothing major, nothing that would stamp him with ‘fragile.’ His injuries are minor and indicative of a player who goes all out and goes too hard. Maybe one who stays in the game when he should take some plays off. Sprained ankle, broken foot, hamstring, concussion, and an injured toe. It is likely that Nacua would have been drafted as high as the 3rd round had he had a clean bill of health. When healthy he is obviously a threat, but can ‘he is’ already rearing its ugly head.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
Puka Nacua: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

What is an oblique? What does it do and how long?

The oblique muscles lie on the outer edge of the rectus abdominis muscles (six-pack muscles) and are responsible for core control and rotation, much like other core muscles they are used in just about every aspect of moving.

From Sean McVay’s initial reaction, it is probably a grade 1 strain, which can heal in just a few days. As with all soft tissue strains, they are finicky and the newest consensus is that allowing them the time they need to fully heal is the best way to solve the issue.

Naucua is listed as questionable, but McVay said he expects Nacua “to be ready to go,” for Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Nacua’s Usage Going Forward

Even with Kupp on IR, the Rams have pretty good depth at the position. Van Jefferson and Ben Skowronek can threaten defenses. Tutu Atwell proved last week that he is a viable weapon. Last week, Demarcus Robinson played only three snaps, so working him into the fold is an option. There is also an opportunity for the Rams to elevate Tyler Johnson from the practice squad.

It seems like it would be prudent to keep Puka Nacua on a pitch count against the 49ers and pivot to rotating Robinson into his role. McVay echoed this sentiment, “We’re being smart with him.. ..We just wanted to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to get him feeling as good as possible by Sunday.”

They can also lean more on Tyler Higbee and Kyren Williams in the short and intermediate passing game. Risking further aggravating Nacua’s injury will have long-term consequences and may deprive the offense of a possible dynamic duo of Kupp and Puka Nacua.