Matthew Stafford-Cooper Kupp connection wreaking havoc on NFL defenses, lifting Rams offense to new heights

No quarterback-receiver mixture has been stronger throughout this NFL season than Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp

Stafford ranks second within the NFL in passing yards and passing touchdowns, in addition to passer score, whereas he is first in QBR, Soccer Outsiders’ DVOA, and TruMedia’s model of EPA (estimated factors added) per dropback. Kupp, in the meantime, is tied for the NFL lead with 90 targets, ranks second within the league with 63 catches (Tyreek Hill has 64) and is first by a mile in receiving yards (924; next-closest is Deebo Samuel with 819) and receiving touchdowns (10; Mike Evans and DK Metcalf every have eight). 

Along with Sean McVay, Stafford and Kupp are breaking NFL defenses with an outrageous combination of scheme and expertise. 

Via his first 4 seasons, Kupp was a reasonably high-volume (he averaged between 6.2 and eight.4 targets per sport), largely short-yardage slot man. He helped the Rams get the ball downfield in smallish chunks, discovering holes in defenses the place Jared Goff may clearly see that he was open, then hearth the ball into the passing lane. 

Teaming with Stafford has turned Kupp into a distinct, much more harmful weapon. He is additionally turn into an explosive play machine, due to the mix of his route-running capabilities and Stafford’s skill and willingness to ship the ball downfield, in addition to earlier than Kupp comes out of his break, reasonably than when he is already shaken freed from the protection. Kupp’s common depth of goal this season is 9.4 yards downfield. Over the earlier three seasons, that quantity has been plummeting: it was 8.4 in 2018, dipped to 7.2 in 2019, and fell all the best way to six.3 final season. 

Kupp has additionally not simply retained his excessive quantity, however seen it dramatically rise. His career-high targets per sport common was beforehand 8.4; he has not seen fewer than 9 targets in any sport this season and is averaging 11.3 per week. Stafford targets him relentlessly: he is been thrown the ball on 32.6% of his routes run, in accordance with TruMedia. (And never simply from the slot, both. He is been focused on 37.1% of routes when aligned on the perimeter.) That is the very best mark amongst all huge receivers with no less than 100 routes this season, and second-highest amongst all gamers behind solely hybrid receiver/working again Cordarrelle Patterson

Mixed along with his excessive catch price and newfound position as a downfield risk, Kupp has been remarkably environment friendly. His 3.35-yards- per-route run common ranks second within the NFL behind solely Samuel. (Davante Adams is the one different participant over 3 yards per route run.) He is additionally already racked up 41 receiving first downs on his 90 targets (45.6%). His earlier excessive for first downs in a season was 51, on 138 targets (38.1%). 

Nowhere has the duo been extra harmful, although, than within the purple zone.

Absolutely the very first thing that jumps out when watching Stafford and Kupp function on this small space of the sector is simply how simple a few of these touchdowns are. That is not a slight. It is a credit score to the offensive design, Kupp’s route-running, and gamers like Robert Woods, Van Jefferson, and Tyler Higbee, who typically act as screeners for Kupp close to the objective line. 

However simply… take a look at these performs. The throws and catches are primarily uncontested, and all Kupp has to do is safe the ball and/or fall into the top zone.

Kupp has run 56 routes within the purple zone this season, in accordance with TruMedia, and been focused on 20 of them. That 35.7% price is only a contact increased than his general goal clip, however the effectivity with which these passes have related is simply absurd. Stafford is 14 of 20 for 128 yards and 9 scores concentrating on Kupp contained in the opponent’s 20-yard line. Not lots of these throws have been harder than those above. 

The extra adventurous stuff comes a bit farther downfield. There’s maybe no workforce within the league that runs extra over routes than the Rams, and they’re a Kupp specialty. Los Angeles likes to line him up within the slot after which simply have him dash throughout the sector and into an open space behind the linebackers and in entrance of the safeties. The Rams will connect a route from that facet of the sector that clears area for Kupp to fill, and it is normally not far more than a simple pitch and catch. 

Generally they’re going to ship Kupp deeper down the sector on a publish route and convey an over or a dig in behind him, and Stafford can hit any a kind of throws, from just about any platform. Utilizing in-breaking stuff down the sector versus simply briefly areas permits the Rams to stretch defenses vertically and horizontally on the similar time. 

In fact, Stafford’s elite arm power additionally permits him to hit on outbreaking throws with far more regularity than his predecessor. The Rams like to flood one facet of zone coverages with a deep route, an intermediate route (Kupp’s) and a brief route, overwhelming the protection by making the most of protection guidelines. That is simply good offensive soccer and each workforce tries to assault that means, however the Rams do it higher than nearly any workforce within the league. Utilizing Kupp — their crispest route-runner — because the intermediate goal most of the time is smart as effectively, as a result of that is the route that wants probably the most promoting. 

That Kupp has a lot success working posts and overs — and that the Rams run so rattling lots of them to start with — helps create monumental throwing lanes for Stafford to drop the ball into. Even when the lanes aren’t that large, although, Stafford can match the ball proper in — lofting it excessive of zone protection and into the one space it must go — or else rely on Kupp’s skill to create sufficient separation from man protection corners such that the ball can solely be caught by him.

And all of that’s simply commonplace, “scheme-him-open” sort of stuff. The Rams and Kupp do much more. 

Line him up in a stack formation to get a free launch, then let him roast man protection from there. Line him up within the backfield to get him matched up on an overwhelmed security and get one in every of your best touchdowns of the season. Go empty and have him aligned as No. 3 receiver to the three-receiver facet, then give him two pure picks and throw a slot fade by zipping the ball over the nook’s head in order that it arrives earlier than the security does. Or, simply have Stafford rip an absolute laser down the sector, though Kupp is mainly triple-covered, as a result of he can get the ball to his man anyway.

How, precisely, defenses are speculated to take care of these items is outwardly as a lot of a thriller to NFL teams as it’s to me. Once you mix the methods McVay’s offense was designed to assault defenses, with a quarterback who could make any throw and is taking part in at a very excessive stage, in addition to a receiver who’s just about all the time open to start with, there’s simply not a lot hope for groups to cease them. | Matthew Stafford-Cooper Kupp connection wreaking havoc on NFL defenses, lifting Rams offense to new heights


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