Deep Dive Week 11 – Underrated and underappreciated

Wide receiver pairings are often the source of much debate. Who’s the best? Who’s the most productive? Who’s the best value? Anything you can think of can be debated.

Yet one thing that’s fairly certain is that Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp for the LA Rams must be close to being the most underrated.

In the Rams’ victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night, Kupp and Woods became just the fourth pair of receivers in NFL history to have 11+ receptions and 130+ receiving yards in the same game.

While the duo were performing their Monday Night magic, Green Bay Packers receiver extraordinaire, Devante Adams, was tweeting his own personal appreciation for Kupp, who is coming off the back of his first-ever 1,000-yard receiving season in 2019.

The East Washington alumnus looks set to get close to the 1,161 yards last season, racking up 722 so far this season through 10 games. He has added just two touchdowns to his career record, but provides a stabilising force on major downs for Jared Goff. In fact, 31 of Kupp’s 91 total receptions in 2020 have earned a first down, as the slot expert continues to average almost 13 yards per grab.

Kupp-Date: Cooper Kupp Tote Board–Week 11 vs. Bucs [PHOTOS/VIDEO]
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With the ball firmly in his grip is where Kupp really begins to provide the magic, accumulating 399 yards after the catch, despite catching the ball just seven yards from the line of scrimmage on average.

Just ask the Buccaneers defensive backs, who were side-swerved and juked all night long. Kupp made easy work of rookie safety Sean Murphy-Bunting, who had performed admirably against many of the league’s top slot players so far, allowing just 7.3 fantasy points per game to receivers before Monday night.

You need look no further than the crucial 3rd-and-1 with 2:46 left on the clock, when Kupp worked himself free from Murphy-Bunting to provide a crucial pick-up, in one of many highlight-reel routes run by Kupp in the win.

But this isn’t just a one-man band, however. Robert Woods, who was drafted by the Buffalo Bills from USC back in 2013, provided his second 100+ yard receiving game of the year, as he hauled in 130 yards on 12 catches.

USC Trojans Football: How Trojans performed in Week 11 NFL games
 Kim Klement – USA TODAY Sports

His time in LA has produced three seasons with over 700 yards receiving (718 in 2017, 1,219 in 2018 and 1,134 in 2019), having never gone over that mark in his four years out in the AFC East.

(I’m not sure whether that says a lot about the quality of Sean McVay and the Rams or just very little about the Bills under Doug Marrone and then Rex Ryan, so I’ll let you be the judge of that.)

What makes the pairing so special is the versatility and flexibility that they are able to showcase under McVay, with Woods rushing for more than 100 yards already this season, and Kupp lining up anywhere from X or Y to slot receiver.

Not only do they line up wherever they want, but they also consistently demonstrate very high footballing IQ, cutting off and bending routes to match coverage. The two managed to torch a Buccaneers defence that had struggled to stop the passing game all year long, allowing 2,989 yards through the air when you tag on the 376 from Goff on Monday.

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But it wasn’t just the Rams duo who played well enough to earn themselves a whole heap of praise in Week 11.

Terry McLaurin, the second year receiver for the Washington Football Team, once again performed impressively in the teams victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Despite the game being talked about for only quarterback-based reasons, the return of Alex Smith and the injury to Joe Burrow, thought should be given to McLaurin, who now has more receiving yards in his first 24 games than Jerry Rice, Calvin Johnson and all the rest with 1,790.

It’s also important to note that Scary Terry has achieved the feat with a revolving door of quarterbacks that have ranged from Colt McCoy to Kyle Allen and now Alex Smith, who returned to a starting role after a two-year absence and a knee injury that could have ended his life, let alone his playing career.

Despite all of this, McLaurin still managed to combine with Smith for 84 yards on five catches in the Week 11 win. The Football Team somehow still have hopes of a play-off berth, something most fans probably could only have dreamed of in pre-season.

It’s a year in which McLaurin has earned captaincy both through his exemplary play on the field, and his leadership off it, following a video that went viral of him giving an improvised post-game speech to the locker room after the victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

Terry McLaurin
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The sophomore has so far racked up 871 yards on the season, just 40 short of his impressive rookie campaign, and is now on track for nearly 1,400 as he continues to average 87 yards a game through the air.

Stability at quarterback would be a huge factor in reaching that mark as well. Alex Smith had a steady day on his return as a starter, throwing for just 166 yards with one touchdown and a pick against a Bengals team that were left reeling in the second half after the injury to their talismanic rookie QB.

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McLaurin’s performance this season has been dotted with spectacular plays as well, including a sensational 42-yard grab in tight coverage on Sunday and a ridiculous catch-and-run touchdown against the New York Giants among many, many others.

What makes Terry’s performances even more impressive is the players that he is being forced to go up against. In each game, McLaurin is facing the best defensive backs that teams have to offer as the league finally wakes up to the danger of #17.

For Washington fans, some will say that McLaurin has been threatening top 5 receiver status for some time now and based on what I’ve watched in researching this article, I’d agree. In fact to summarise, I’m going to borrow a phrase from “Mic’d Up” running back Antonio Gibson this week: “He different.”

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