LOS ANGELES – Experience has its privileges.
Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp is in his fifth season playing in coach Sean McVay’s offense. That affords Kupp creativity and freedom running routes within parameters set by McVay.
“It makes it a lot of fun as you kind of learn where those parameters are,” Kupp said after practice Thursday, “and pushing them a little bit and making him pull you back, but it’s been really good.”
For Kupp and the Rams.
Kupp, who starred at Eastern Washington University, goes into Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals with an NFL-leading five touchdowns and 367 yards receiving.
He is also tied for the league lead with 25 receptions.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford has twice been named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week while leading the Rams to a 3-0 start. But Thursday, Kupp was named NFC Offensive Player of the Month. He is the first Rams receiver to earn the recognition since Torry Holt in 2003.
“Receiver, more than I think any other position, is reliant upon the other 10 guys doing their job really well,” Kupp said. “To be in the position I’m in, I’m really just a benefactor of 10 other guys doing some really good work.
“So really appreciative for those guys and for the work we’re doing just as a team offensively.”
The Rams are coming off a 34-24 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kupp caught two touchdown passes on a day when receiver DeSean Jackson and tight end Tyler Higbee emerged as added weapons for Stafford.
Kupp’s success helps other receivers, Jackson said.
“Every defense we play against is going to be accounting for him,” Jackson said, “but I mean it works simultaneously.
“Our whole receiver corps is excited to get out there and help each other out. And once we get an opportunity, we just take advantage of it.”
Kupp has seized opportunity since the Rams selected him in the third round of the 2017 draft.
In 2019, Kupp caught 94 passes for 1,161 yards and 10 touchdowns, and the Rams rewarded him with a three-year contract extension worth $47.25 million, according to spotrac.com.
Kupp not only earned big money. He also has earned freedom to put his spin on routes, McVay said.
“He’s so creative and he’s got such a great thought process,” McVay said this week. “So, you definitely give ownership to your players that have earned that right.”
Last season, Kupp caught 92 passes for 974 yards and three touchdowns. But a knee injury suffered in a wild-card playoff victory over the Seattle Seahawks sidelined Kupp for a divisional-round playoff defeat by the Green Bay Packers.
He showed no ill effects during his fast start this season.
In a 34-14 season-opening victory over the Chicago Bears, Kupp caught a 56-yard touchdown pass and finished with seven receptions for 108 yards.
The next week at Indianapolis, he caught nine passes for 163 yards, including touchdowns of 16 and 10 yards, in a 27-24 victory over the Colts.
“He’s got great feel for when he’s got guys on their heels, when he can set guys up, how he can do it,” Stafford said in the days leading up to the game against the Buccaneers.
In the victory over Tampa Bay, Kupp caught nine passes for 96 yards, including touchdowns of 2 and 10 yards. His performance helped Jackson, Higbee and receivers Robert Woods and Van Jefferson.
“When we get that going, it’s tough to zero in on one guy,” Stafford said.
The Cardinals (3-0) will try to slow down Kupp on Sunday at SoFi Stadium in the NFC West opener for both teams.
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said the versatility of Rams receivers presents a challenge.
“You can’t ever think, ‘Hey, he’s just an option-route guy,’ or ‘He’s just a go guy,’ ” Kingsbury said. “I mean they can do it all.”
If the Cardinals or any opponent attempts to focus on shutting down Kupp, other Rams receivers will take advantage, Kupp said.
“I’ve been really happy with how the box score has played out for me personally, but I don’t think that’s how we plan for it to go,” he said. “The ball is going to be spread around to guys. … I fully expect things are going to move around and be fluid in that regard.”
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