Usually on any long run in the NFL a wide receiver makes a block at the second level of the defense that springs the runner loose.
For Cooper Kupp, he does not shy away from those bone-jarring hits; they are considered part of the job description for the Los Angeles Rams receiving group and a badge of honor.
Both Kupp and fellow receiver Robert Woods signed lucrative, multi-year deals this season because of their production in the passing game. But along with their consistent production, one of the reasons the Rams signed the offensive co-captains long-term was their unselfishness and willingness to do the dirty work like run blocking.
“You’re going to be on the losing end of some of those battles,” Kupp said. “But sometimes losing with dignity is a win on your part, so we’ll take that. I try to follow Rob’s lead. He’s got a knack for getting pancakes on defensive linemen.”
Kupp said Woods led the wide receivers in pancake blocks last season, but he’s coming for him this year.
“It’s just as important as anything else we do,” Kupp said. “We put an emphasis on run blocking just as much as we do running routes, catching the ball or running after the fact.
“For us, we understand the importance of getting the running game going. At the end of the day, some of it is being able to spring the run at the line of scrimmage, but also springing the run down the field as well.”
The Rams have the most rushing attempts in the NFL this season at 111 and are tied for third in the NFL in rushing at 170.3 rushing yards per game.
Not only are the receivers involved in blocking, but running the football as well. Woods leads are NFL receivers in rushing with 63 yards on the ground through three games.
Rams head coach Sean McVay leans on the outside zone run game, along with a mixture of fly sweeps, quick pitches and inside runs to keep defenses off balance. All of those plays require physical receivers involved in blocking scheme.
“It takes all eleven,” McVay said. “In a lot of instances, they’re asked to dig out support or force players. When our guys that have been producing at a high level are the examples of what it looks like with Robert Woods, with Cooper and with Josh (Reynolds) that becomes what is expected. (Wide Receivers) Coach (Eric) Yarber emphasizes it. He does an excellent job with that, but we talk about it all the time. To be able to run the football efficiently and effectively, it takes all 11 and those receivers are a vital part of our success.”
New offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell said the way L.A. receivers run block is something he first noticed as during his time with the Washington football team serving as the team’s offensive coordinator.
“It’s huge,” O’Connell said. “It’s something I’ve always admired from afar. The past three years watching this offense week in and week out, studying what’s made them successful, to join this group and be a part of it and just see those guys work as a group day in and day out.
“What Yarber and (Assistant Wide Receivers) Coach (Zac) Robinson do with those guys to prepare them both mentally for some of the schematic things we do in the run game, but also physically and handling some of the things that we ask … and those guys do. It’s something that a lot of teams talk about it. A lot of teams say it’s a huge part of their offense and what they want to do, but those guys have put it on tape for a long time here.”