Rams’ Cooper Kupp is nearly unstoppable

LOS ANGELES – The Rams’ opponents know that the ball is going to dynamic wide receiver Cooper Kupp, but they can’t do much to stop him.

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Kupp, who had one of the greatest seasons in the history of the NFL, has helped propel the Rams into Super Bowl LVI, where they’ll face the Bengals at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

He caught 145 passes for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns to lead the NFL. He averaged 114.5 yards per game. He also is the only player to have at least 200 yards and a touchdown on five different routes this season, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats.

Kupp has been unstoppable in the playoffs, as he has caught 25 passes for 386 yards and four touchdowns. One of his biggest catches, a streak down the middle of the field against Tampa Bay’s zero blitz, helped the Rams vanquish Tom Brady in the divisional round.

How does he get so open?

“Well, I can’t tell you all of my secrets,” said Kupp, who played at Eastern Washington and was a third-round pick in the 2017 draft. “I think there’s something about trying to make everything look like one thing. You’re taught from the very first time you learn to run routes, everything’s supposed to look like a go ball.

“Then everything comes off of that. So I think that’s kind of where the root of where this whole thing comes from.”

Kupp has worked on his route running since childhood.

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“Trying to make everything look like the same thing and then be able to build off of that,” Kupp said. “There’s obviously nuances to leverages to understanding where a guy’s help is. There are times you might want to move a guy’s hips opposite (of the way he’s running).

“There are other times you might want him early on to think that he’s got you covered on things.”

Kupp ran the 40-yard dash in 4.62 seconds, which is not blazing track speed. But the 6-foot-2 and 208-pounder maximizes his speed.

“I think quickness is a piece of football that isn’t talked about enough,” Kupp said. “Speed is a luxury in my mind. Speed is a luxury. Quickness is a necessity.”

“He's a phenomenal player. He's as special as they come. He can win in the slot. He can win outside. He can win in the short game, the intermediate game and then, oh, by the way, he's great with the ball in his hands in the screen game."

- Bengals secondary coach/safeties Robert Livingston, on Rams receiver Cooper Kupp

Kupp has plenty of quickness.

“You can’t create separation at the top of routes and be able to have enough twitch to be able to move people at the line of scrimmage,” Kupp said. “Quickness is something that I’ve tried to develop as early as I can remember. It was always a point in the offseason to develop quickness and also be able to maintain it with all of the different cuts that you do.”

Kupp’s current test lab is the Rams’ practices on Thursdays. Coach Sean McVay has the first-team defense and offense practice against one another.

“I get to line up against Jalen Ramsey and compete against Jalen Ramsey every single week,” Kupp said. “Now that is a huge advantage for me.”

Ramsey is widely regarded as the top cornerback in the league.

“So thankful that Coach allows us to be in those positions to compete against each other to sharpen each other,” Kupp said. “Then we’ll have the conversations after the fact on what they might have thought about some of the things that we saw when we were out there competing.”

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford has enjoyed working with Kupp.

“I’ve gotten a full year with Cooper and his, you know, his greatness,” Stafford said. “His ability to affect the game both with the football. Any kind of way you can affect the game, he does it.”

The Bengals know that Kupp will be a problem.

“He’s a phenomenal player,” Bengals secondary coach/safeties Robert Livingston said. “He’s as special as they come. He can win in the slot. He can win outside. He can win in the short game, the intermediate game and then, oh, by the way, he’s great with the ball in his hands in the screen game.”

The Bengals reached the Super Bowl by mixing and matching their coverages in the second half and overtime of the AFC Championship game against the Chiefs. They’ll have a plan for Kupp.

“You always got to know where he is,” Livingston said. “We must have a plan for him, for sure. He’s had a great year. I think when you go back and kind of take a breath after this year is over and look at just the amount of catches he had and the amount of targets and the amount of yards. ... It’s just a special year for him.”

Kupp is savoring this trip to the Super Bowl. He suffered a torn Achilles during the 2018 season and missed the Super Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He was on the sidelines as the Rams failed to score a touchdown in the 13-3 loss to New England.

“Not being able play in that first Super Bowl back in 2019 offered a pretty cool perspective for me,” Kupp said. “I mean, it’s obviously a very difficult situation, but it gave me an opportunity to be offered a perspective of the importance of enjoying the process of what this NFL season is.”

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