Why? Because his fellow wide receiver teammates and position coach Eric Yarber have encouraged him to not be so quick with his routes, but to trust and be patient with his running.
“First time I got there, I ran a route too fast and my receivers coach was saying I was too fast,” Atwell told reporters in a video conference interview on May 26.
During OTAs, Atwell began to job shadow veterans Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and DeSean Jackson. What did he learn from them? It’s OK to play fast, but it’s better to play patient when executing the receiver route tree.
“They are all patient with their routes. They all get out of their breaks fast,” Atwell said. “They’re hard-working guys. And that’s who I want to be around. They set the tone, and I follow.”
Atwell in Student Mode
The electric Louisville Cardinal standout, who caught 140 passes for 2,307 yards and 21 touchdowns through 34 games, was called “electrifying” and a “legitimate deep-ball danger to the field” by nfl.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein. Denver Broncos Hall of Famer and NFL Network analyst Terrell Davis praised the Rams drafting Atwell at No. 57, saying “To me, he’s going to the best place as far as wide receivers are concerned.”
Atwell can blow the top off of a defense with his speed. Many have attached DeSean Jackson’s name and game to Atwell, including members of the Rams’ scouting department in this video.
But again, Atwell is being educated by the Ram vets on the perimeter including “D-Jax,” who has taught Atwell about timing his routes.
“Just be patient with my routes. I come out of my routes a little too quick. It’s all about timing. He tells me to be patient and everything will come with it,” Atwell said.
The 14-year-veteran has embraced the role of mentor for Atwell and the other young wideouts. Jackson likes the fact that Atwell is in a WR room with guys who have been through the NFL rigors for more than four seasons including the 90-catch duo of Woods and Kupp.
“It’s good for him to have guys like myself, Rob and Coop just to kind of see the examples we set,” Jackson told reporters on June 9. “For Tutu, I think it’s huge for him to go out there and just focus on the things he needs to do and make himself a better wide receiver coming from college. Obviously, the NFL is totally different. But he has the intangibles, he works hard, he has a very explosive side to his game and he’s kind of similar where he’s deceivingly fast where people don’t really expect it because he’s a smaller framed guy, so it kind of catches you off guard.”
Kupp added: “We talk a lot about be quick, be fast, but not in a rush. And he’s done a good job with that, being able to get to his depths, push through his depths, not cutting things off short. He’s so fast.”
Taking What He’s Learned
Atwell is entering 2021 as one of the more intriguing and likely most scrutinized L.A. draft pick. It’s not just because of his blazing speed, but his non-prototypical WR size of 5-foot-9, 165-pounds.
The Miami native, though, won over the Rams first in the 2021 draft with his dynamic plays at UL, nabbing him as their first selection. Atwell is capable of adding speed and new wrinkles to the Rams’ playbook. But again he’s learning to slow things down and use patience, because the older Ram wideouts are teaching him to do just that.
“On the field, they teach me and let me know how to run this route, what this route means and different ways like that so I can understand it better,” Atwell said. “I’m pretty much being myself, but paying attention to different things that they’re doing and what I’m doing. Whatever I take from them, I’m going to use.”