THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — In the event you’re searching for vast receiver Cooper Kupp after follow, he can usually be discovered within the ear of a defensive again.
On the sphere after follow, proper after a play or within the locker room, he is asking the Los Angeles Rams defensive backs what they’re seeing from him, and asking for ideas and tells they see or really feel in opposition to him throughout follow. And it isn’t solely All-Professional cornerback Jalen Ramsey he is asking, however rookies Cobie Durant and Russ Yeast.
Durant, a fourth-round select of South Carolina State, stated he could not consider a “Triple Crown man’s asking me questions and getting pointers from me.”
“He is simply attempting to play the sport earlier than he even will get to the sport,” Yeast stated. “And that is what sort of makes him nice.”
And that is how Kupp continues to enhance, even coming off a season during which he led the NFL in catches, yards and landing receptions and was named Tremendous Bowl LVI MVP. By some means, Kupp has change into a good larger a part of the Rams’ offense, accounting for 33% of his workforce’s targets this season, which is the best charge within the NFL.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers skilled firsthand simply how troublesome it was to attempt to cease Kupp twice final season, together with within the divisional spherical, the place he had 9 catches for 183 yards and a landing to assist ship the Rams to the NFC Championship Sport.
“He does every thing effectively,” stated Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles, who was Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator final season. “He blocks, he runs routes, he is outdoors, he is inside, he is within the backfield, he is on the line of scrimmage, he is in movement, he throws passes, he catches the ball. … He has good measurement that goes unnoticed when he is blocking, however he has good measurement to get on you.
“He is one among them uncommon gamers that comes round each couple of years.”
ON SATURDAY MORNINGS, Kupp’s on the entrance of the vast receivers assembly room, clicker in hand. He runs these Saturday conferences, vast receivers coach Eric Yarber stated, “as a result of he’s only a coach on the sphere.” Maybe the most important praise comes from Rams vast receiver Ben Skowronek, who says having Kupp run the conferences is “just about the identical as having Coach Yarbs run it.”
“Once we come to the sideline after performs, Cooper can inform you precisely what occurred on each play, virtually like Sean,” Yarber stated. “And it simply helps me out that a lot. It makes it that a lot simpler to educate.”
How detailed is Kupp’s data of the Rams’ offense?
“I imply, he is aware of our offensive line calls,” offensive coordinator Liam Coen stated. “He is aware of the calls, he is aware of the intent.”
That data “makes him play a lot, a lot sooner,” Yarber stated, including that the day earlier than in follow, when offensive linemen made the fallacious name, Kupp observed immediately.
“He pushed it to a secondary man and Cooper stated, ‘No, no, no, no. You bought 54. Push it to 54,'” Yarber stated. “And I imply, he helps everyone out.”
And although he put up historic numbers final season, Kupp is the kind of participant who would come to the teaching workers early within the week with run concepts.
“Not solely go concepts, however run concepts the place he was concerned blocking,” Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Wes Phillips, who was the Rams’ pass-game coordinator and tight ends coach in 2021, stated. “[He] listened when the road coach was giving his run presentation so far as strategies, blocking. He requested questions. All of the issues that he did within the go sport had been actually particular, however he was actually particular mentally in all different points.
“For a man main the league in receiving, and he is coming in, saying, ‘I believe this run can be good. I may also help seal the sting proper right here,’ is uncommon.”
The data of the offense comes from preparation. Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie stated he and Kupp skilled collectively once they first obtained to the league. “Seeing the best way he approaches the sport,” Awuzie stated, “I have never actually seen a receiver method it that manner, that meticulously, with that a lot need to be taught, to review, to be taught from individuals who performed the place at a excessive degree.
“He isn’t going to fall asleep earlier than he will get one thing carried out. He is on the facility on a regular basis, attempting to get higher film-wise. After which when he goes dwelling, it does not cease there. It continues. Which will proceed for eight hours, 9 hours, I do not know. I simply know he is an actual soccer junkie — like a real soccer junkie.”
Buccaneers cornerback Jamel Dean stated he can inform simply how effectively Kupp understands the protection.
“Having that movie research after which having the ability to, like, execute it and acknowledge it on the snap and the run — that is his means that he has [over] most receivers,” Dean stated.
Kupp says that work comes from his need to at all times be coached.
“If I stepped on the sphere like, ‘I am not going to be taught something new right now,'” he stated. “That would not be me. That is a really boring factor for me. I need to have the ability to proceed to be taught.”
That mindset helped Kupp, in his sixth NFL season, develop his route operating. Kupp stated he leaned on veterans on the roster on the time, together with Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, who stated Kupp was “like a sponge, absorbing every thing.”
It is so troublesome to defend Kupp, Yarber stated, as a result of he makes each route look the identical.
“That makes you play trustworthy,” Yarber stated. “You possibly can’t soar issues. In the event you soar issues, he is making it look the identical. And if you happen to thought he was moving into, he provides you the look … that he is moving into. However he is breaking out.”
Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton stated Kupp is “actual decisive in his [release]” off the road of scrimmage — and is aware of how one can assault a defender’s leverage.
“Your [release] as a receiver is absolutely the way you arrange your defender,” Hilton stated. “In the event you straight-line [release] them, clearly, it’ll be extra vertical routes. … However say you are operating a slant. You clearly wish to [release] outdoors since you’re attempting to beat the defender inside. So that you [release] outdoors and return beneath. That is what Kupp does, man.”
Skowronek stated Kupp “does a very good job of understanding pre-snap, post-snap seems, leverages based mostly off no matter protection it’s and having the ability to assault leverages.”
“And I believe that is what makes him so particular is having the ability to try this and simply realizing coverages so effectively and simply having a plan every time he will get as much as the road of scrimmage,” Skowronek stated.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor, who was the Rams assistant vast receivers coach throughout Kupp’s rookie season stated Kupp “is sort of a quarterback taking part in receiver” as a result of he needs to know the “why” of each play.
“If he must go an additional yard to interrupt it off and get open, [he can],” Durant stated. “He can get open each time he needs to, I really feel like. He isn’t Triple Crown for nothing.”
Coen stated he thinks it is Kupp’s general data of the sport that has helped him change into a greater participant in all points, whether or not that is within the go or the run sport.
“Each receiver needs the ball as a lot as humanly doable, however the place do you slot in the idea?” Coen stated. “How are you going to assist your teammates get open in numerous cases? The nuances of his sport are clearly [based off] expertise, but additionally the work that you simply’re alluding to.”
KUPP TOOK A massive soar ahead final season, ending the 2020 season as a strong receiver for the Rams and ending the 2021 season as Tremendous Bowl LVI MVP and placing up historic numbers within the course of. One distinction for Kupp between these seasons was the addition of quarterback Matthew Stafford. McVay stated the pair “instantly had a particular rapport,” one thing he might see whilst early as their first coaching camp collectively. The pair are so shut that Kupp wore Stafford’s No. 9 jersey when he signed his contract extension in June.
“You can type of see an enormous season for Cooper coming, simply based mostly on the various things that they had been in a position to get carried out,” McVay stated.
Each morning, Coen stated at 6 o’clock and even earlier, Stafford and Kupp are within the movie room collectively.
“And so they do not simply watch go performs,” Coen stated. “They watch routes, they watch run sport, they watch the defensive construction.”
Ramsey, who goes in opposition to Kupp throughout follow, stated the chemistry with Stafford “is second to none.”
“When a quarterback and receiver have chemistry, it is actually robust to defend them anyway as a result of they know the way they need the routes run, they know the place the ball placement shall be,” Ramsey stated.
There isn’t any doubt Stafford has leaned on Kupp this season, particularly when the offense has struggled to maneuver the ball persistently. Kupp presently accounts for 71% of his workforce’s receiving touchdowns, which is tied for many within the NFL, and 39% of his workforce’s receiving yards, which is third within the league behind Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson and Miami Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill.
“They have a love connection occurring there,” San Francisco 49ers security Jimmie Ward stated. “He stays on him the entire play.”
Stafford stated he is aware of he can rely upon Kupp on the sphere as a result of “he does an important job of being the place he’s imagined to be on the proper time.”
“He has an important idea and understanding of what we’re attempting to get carried out, each within the run sport and the go sport,” Stafford stated. “After which he is a bodily proficient man. When he will get these one-on-one alternatives, he can win and provides me a floor to throw the ball. After which, an elite trait is catching it after which clearly the run after the catch is fairly particular.”
And that feeling from his quarterback is broadly mirrored by his opponents, too.
“He is an important participant, top-of-the-line guys within the league,” Buccaneers security Mike Edwards stated. “Simply watching him on movie — he stands out. The amount of balls that he will get, they feed him loads. He will get open … shhh [shakes head] … I do not know, it doesn’t matter what. He runs some loopy routes that you simply obtained to attempt to cease to protect. He is only a nice participant. He finds open zones to get in. In the event you’re man-to-man, he shakes his man to attempt to get open.
“… My rookie yr, we performed them, I wasn’t actually that hip to him. And I used to be like, ‘Man, this man’s fairly good.’ And he saved getting higher. I really feel like he getting higher yearly. He is a type of guys that retains progressing yearly.”
NFL Nation reporters Ben Child, Kevin Seifert, Nick Wagoner, Jenna Laine and Turron Davenport contributed to this story.