Sean McVay, though, has had the Rams operating like Kupp won’t be in the lineup for Sunday, September 10 for the season opener at Seattle as the Pro Bowl wide receiver deals with his hamstring ailment.
“I think you just move forward and you got to be able to operate with the situation and the guys that we do have and if he’s able to go then that’s outstanding for us and if not, then that’s how we’ve been operating,” McVay told reporters Monday, September 4.
In this case, who becomes the best options for the Rams as they head to the place where they ended the 2022 season at 5-12? And who is most capable?
For some of these wideouts in the room, it’s a great opportunity to showcase more of their talents as each face either a contract year, a needed breakthrough year or an early impact performance. Here are the top three if Kupp, who must see a specialist in Minnesota for his injured hamstring, is a no-go against the Seahawks.
Van Jefferson, Fourth-Year WR
Jefferson is already facing a contract year as he’s in the final season of the rookie deal he signed in 2020.
This time, he’s healthier for the season opener. Plus now, in his fourth season in the NFL, he has become the veteran and longtime presence in the Rams’ WR room.
This game bodes perfectly for Jefferson to prove he can, indeed, step into a WR1 role if Kupp isn’t available. And even if he was available, Kupp is still facing the chance of not being at full speed.
Jefferson, after years of not being positioned to even be a WR2 as he played with names like Robert Woods, Odell Beckham and Allen Robinson last season, can finally raise himself to part-time WR1 in a pivotal contract season.
Tutu Atwell, Third-Year WR
Atwell has already taken his lumps: Reserve/COVID-19 list to start his first rookie training camp, shoulder injury that sidelined him for the rest of 2021, then being limited his second season until being more inserted into the offense.
Now, if he can continue his brief streak he started late into his second season, then 2023 could be the breakout season Ram fans have longed to see out of the second rounder from the 2021 NFL Draft.
Atwell already has put together his strongest training camp since he’s been with the Rams. Now, with Kupp potentially out of the picture, the Rams still need a deep threat and jet sweep option. Perhaps Atwell can finally solidify that role for L.A.
Puke Nacua, Rookie WR
Now, on to the newcomer.
Here’s when you know you’ve got the win in confidence from your team: The rookie Nacua was given a rest game during the preseason — normally reserved for veterans. But it’s the proof how valuable the Rams are thinking the BYU Cougar is.
And if Nacua can bring the same deep routes, high concentration and explosive plays he’s given Ram fans at training camp a small sample of, then potentially he emerges as the top option for Matthew Stafford versus Seattle.
McVay Reminded Rams Have Practiced Without Kupp Before Camp
While Ram fans have held their collective breaths on the status of the Super Bowl 56 Most Valuable Player, McVay had to send the reminder that the team has had to run their offense without Kupp recently. The Rams were briefly without him due to a family event.
“You look at it in the meantime and really in his absence over the majority of the offseason program for whether he was doing stuff for the family or just some of the things that he was rehabbing with his ankle, it has forced growth and development for some players,” McVay said.
Overall, McVay likes what he’s seen from the wideouts not named Kupp.
“They’ve gotten some reps and opportunities and a rapport with Matthew that you feel confident in their ability to step up if that’s what has to occur,” McVay said.