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Eastern Washington University Football

Rams WR and former EWU star Cooper Kupp starting to regain his form

Cooper Kupp, playing against the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 19, appears to be back in the groove following two seasons of injuries.  (Tribune News Service)
By Adam Grosbard Tribune News Service

Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp went in a late motion, lining up inside of Puka Nacua on the goal line. As he began to run his route, quarterback Matthew Stafford faced heavy pressure. Unable to wait for Kupp to make his outside break, Stafford threw the ball up, giving it a little extra time for his receiver to get to his spot.

By the time Kupp turned, the ball was already in the air. No matter, as the former Eastern Washington standout came down with it for the touchdown, his second in two weeks.

“Two ballers making a big-time play,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “That’s a true trust throw. I thought there was a lot of examples of those two being really in sync again yesterday, which is really good for (our) offense.”

The second-quarter score in Sunday’s overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens was the type of connection that Stafford and Kupp made in droves in 2021, their first season together. But injuries for both players across the past two years have limited further opportunities.

For Kupp in particular, the past two years have been frustrating. A season-ending high ankle sprain a year ago followed by a training camp hamstring pull kept him on injured reserve for the first four weeks of this season.

When he returned, he and Stafford weren’t quite on the same page, with passes that would usually be layups between the two falling incomplete. Then an ankle sprain in Week 11 followed by an aggravation of it against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12 limited Kupp’s effectiveness, with four catches for 29 yards in that stretch.

“He gutted through and made some really good contributions to the (Arizona) game that maybe didn’t show up in that stat sheet,” McVay said, “but he pushed through.”

But the past two weeks, the old Kupp has returned, and with him, that connection with Stafford. Against the Cleveland Browns, he reached the end zone for the first time since Week 6. Against the Ravens, he caught eight passes for 115 yards and that trusting touchdown.

“I think he’s feeling healthier. He’s such a tough competitor that he would never complain or say anything,” McVay said. “His game is predicated on twitch, strength, contact, balance, doing a lot of those different things. And the healthier and the more comfortable that you get after you have been away from the game for a long period of time … I think he’s taken steps the last couple weeks.”