Puka Nacua, Kyren Williams, and Steve Avila are leading a roster overhaul in Los Angeles. The three youngsters have made their presence felt, lifting the Rams from the NFC West cellar to open the 2023 campaign. Will the good times last in Hollywood? Or is this merely a blip on the radar?
The Los Angeles Rams found themselves picking inside the top six at last year’s NFL Draft — well, actually, it didn’t quite go down that way. After suffering through one of the most abysmal campaigns in franchise history, LA couldn’t even make the most of it because their first-round pick was still owed to Detroit via the Matthew Stafford-Jared Goff trade.
Although the Rams succeeded in their endeavor by securing a Super Bowl ring in the first year of the Stafford era, rumblings started surfacing last season about buyer’s remorse on LA’s part. Jared Goff’s resurgence with the Lions helped fan the flames, especially after Stafford went down to a season-ending elbow injury — with some even wondering if Staff would take another NFL snap.
The Rams Are Back!
Well, through two games of the 2023 slate, it seems like the Rams’ demise was greatly exaggerated. Stafford looks like the same guy who led the team to a title, and the rest of the roster is rejuvenated, thanks to a steady influx of youth to the locker room.
Even without a first-round pick this past April, general manager Les Snead still found ways to upgrade the roster at the 2023 NFL Draft. Offensive lineman Steve Avila has single-handedly reshaped the unit, vaulting the group from one of the league’s worst to one of the best in a single offseason.
As vital as Avila has been to the Rams’ success, let’s cut straight to the biggest story in California — the emergence of fifth-round rookie Puka Nacua. The BYU product was tabbed as a sleeper entering the draft, and that narrative only picked up more steam after Nacua landed with the brilliance of head coach Sean McVay.
Sometimes, preseason hype is just that — preseason hype. Luckily for the LA fan base, Nacua has not only lived up to this hype, he has surpassed it by a mile. Don’t believe me? Let’s put his performance into historical context.
Puka Nacua Is On Pace For Legendary Rookie Campaign
Through two games, Nacua has garnered 35 targets. Read that again: THIRTY-FIVE targets in two games to open his career. It is safe to say Matthew Stafford trusts the first-year wideout.
Going further, Nacua has 266 receiving yards, setting him on a pace for 2,261 yards on the year — absurd. Now, this should slow down at some point if Cooper Kupp can take the field at all in 2023. However, this offense runs through Puka Nacua until further notice.
Kyren Williams Looks Like RB1 Following Cam Akers’ Trade
Former draft picks Tutu Atwell and Kyren Williams are making waves as well, with the always-steady Tyler Higbee churning out yards at tight end. As the kids say, Sean McVay has been in his bag since the regular season opened.
The defense is still led by arguably the best player of all time, Aaron Donald. But the rest of the unit keeps me from buying all the way in on LA. It’s a mostly unproven group with several players below the age of 25; they’ll have to learn quickly to keep pace in the NFC West for a full 17-game slate.
The Rams surrendered 30 points to the Niners this past weekend but have a chance to “get right” with back-to-back matchups against the banged-up Bengals and the even younger Colts. If the defense can keep up with the offense, Matthew Stafford and Co. could have one more magical run up their sleeves.