Following a disappointing start to the 2022 season, the Los Angeles Rams have even bigger problems. Star wide receiver Cooper Kupp is set to undergo surgery after suffering an ankle injury against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Kupp should be headed to the injury reserve list, meaning he will be out for at least four weeks. For a struggling offense, this is a major setback for the Rams. So far in 2022, the wideout has 75 receptions out of 98 targets for 812 yards and six touchdowns. He also added 52 yards on the ground on nine carries for the first rushing score in his career.
Since the trade deadline has passed, Los Angeles might have to rely on the pieces that are already part of the roster. With that being said, here are three Rams who must save the team’s 2022 season after Cooper Kupp’s surgery.
Without Kupp for at least a month, other receivers must step up if the Rams still want to pursue a playoff spot. While names such as Ben Skowronek and tight end Tyler Higbee should earn more targets, it is Allen Robinson who will likely be taking Kupp’s role.
Robinson joined the Rams this past offseason after eight seasons in the NFL, four each with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Chicago Bears. Prior to 2022, he had 95 starts out of 100 games he appeared. He also had 495 catches for 6,409 yards and 40 touchdowns. That includes his 14-touchdown season in 2015, where he was the co-leader in the NFL plus earned the only Pro Bowl selection of his career.
In 2022, Robinson has 47 targets for 29 receptions and 292 yards with two touchdowns. Behind only Kupp, he has the second-best receiving marks on the team among wide receivers. Without the reigning triple crown champion and Super Bowl MVP, Robinson will probably earn more targets and he needs to take full advantage for the Rams.
Due to Kupp’s elite receiving last season, Los Angeles heavily utilizes the passing game. Because of that, the running game is almost forgotten by the team. So far in 2022, the Rams have the worst rushing numbers in the NFL with only 613 yards. The seven touchdowns on the ground place them in the bottom 10 in the league.
That resulted in trade rumors involving running back Cam Akers. He was even out of some games as the front office was exploring some options. Without finding a good deal, Los Angeles eventually reintegrated Akers into the rotation.
After missing most of last season with a torn Achilles tendon, Akers has yet to take his spot back in the offense. This year, he only started in two games out of the seven he appeared in. He has 62 carries for 176 yards and just one touchdown. Akers is averaging 25.1 yards per game. For comparison, he had 48.1 yards in his rookie campaign in 2020.
With the receiving game missing Kupp for a mouth, head coach Sean McVay might lean toward more run plays. If that happens, Akers should be the new No. 1 option on the Rams’ offense. Still, should he get this chance, he needs to step up and prove he is fully recovered from his injury.
One of the leaders of the team, veteran Matthew Stafford is perhaps the player who needs to step up without Kupp. The quarterback heavily relies on the star wide receiver, which means he needs to practically reinvent his strategy.
In the 2022 season, Stafford has completed a career-high 68.4% of his pass attempts for 1,928 yards. He has eight thrown touchdowns, however, he also has eight interceptions. This is a problem going back to 2021 when he led the league with 17 picks.
An aspect of Stafford’s game that has almost disappeared this year is his rushing ability. Although he never was a dual-threat quarterback, he could sometimes run for a first down or avoid sacks using his legs. This season, Stafford only has 12 rushing attempts for a total of five yards and a score. For his career, he averages 3.2 yards a carry but since joining the Rams in 2021, this number goes down to 1.1.
Additionally, opponents sacked him 28 times for a loss of 199 yards across eight games. Last year, in 17 games, he got sacked 30 times. Stafford has already matched his five fumbles from 2021, but this time, he has three lost as opposed to two from last season.
At 3-5 with him starting, the reigning Super Bowl champions need a big turnaround if they want to return to the big game. As of now, they are battling for a playoff spot. The Rams’ season will fully depend on how the team, under Stafford’s leadership, responds to Kupp’s absence. Unless Stafford steps up, especially now without Kupp, Los Angeles’ odds of success are very slim.