Rookie wideout Puka Nacua is making his presence felt at Rams training camp. Could he carve out a role in the high-powered Sean McVay offense?
The Los Angeles Rams stumbled through a disappointing and injury-riddled 2022 season while serving as the NFL’s defending champion. In what some might call a Super Bowl hangover, the roster regressed across the table, and stars like Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp were stuck on the shelf for several weeks with injuries.
Rams Hope To Bounce Back From Down Year; Could Puka Nacua Be The Catalyst?
Stafford is seemingly healthy, even if the Rams are limiting his reps at training camp. So the offense has that going for it. But, Kupp had a hamstring flare-up at practice last week, leading head coach Sean McVay to place the ambiguous “day-to-day” label on the star wideout.
In Kupp’s absence, one wide receiver, in particular, is making a name for himself this offseason. The fifth-round pick from BYU, Puka Nacua, is on a beeline for the WR2 role in Los Angeles. His play since arriving with the Rams makes a starting gig entirely realistic.
Nacua is developing a good feel for the system, regularly catching passes in traffic. He is also adept at finding the open spots in zone coverage, giving his quarterback a safety valve on a majority of snaps. Most of Nacua’s production has come with backup Stetson Bennett at the helm, but it is easy to see why Stafford could view the Cougar alum as a go-to option in Year 1.
Don’t get me wrong, Nacua is not the “next Cooper Kupp”. Nor does he have to be. The Rams already have one; they just need an effective running partner to keep defenses honest. Even without an elite top gear, Nacua can still put pressure on defenses vertically with his top-tier body control and deep ball tracking.
Sean McVay Should Make The NFL Transition Easy For Nacua
Ideally, the young pass catcher will refine his route running and find more ways to create separation downfield. The good news for Nacua? McVay creates easy separation for his receivers. It should mitigate the risk of the rookie getting jammed consistently off the line, allowing him to line up in the slot and run motion routes (or even jet sweeps).
Every clip at training camp is more promising than the next. This past weekend, Nacua towered over his assignment and snagged a long back shoulder throw — this time from Stafford himself. Rams fans are excited about this Day 3 player, as they should be. Whether Kupp misses action in the regular season or not, Puka Nacua will have a role in this high-octane offense for Los Angeles.