WR Woods’ injury absence will force Rams to work together
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Robert Woods is more than a target to quarterback Jared Goff. The Los Angeles Rams’ top receiver is also an example of professionalism and hard work.
Woods has made a significant impact on the Rams in just nine games with his hometown team, catching 47 passes for 703 yards. But the Rams (7-3) have to get along without him for a few weeks while he recovers from a shoulder injury, and Goff is hopeful their offense will rise to fill the gap.
“On the field, you obviously have the numbers and all that stuff,” Goff said. “His production has been great. But I think off the field, what his presence is at practice is something that people don’t usually see as much. So that’s kind of maybe the bigger part of it.”
The Rams went back to work on Wednesday after their 24-7 defeat at Minnesota last week. Along with the game, Los Angeles lost Woods to an injury that will keep him out for a significant amount of time during their push for their first playoff appearance since 2004.
A little adversity probably will be good for the Rams, who hadn’t faced much this season before their powerful offense was shut down by Minnesota. Coach Sean McVay and Goff are hoping the problems don’t linger when they host the New Orleans Saints (8-2) on Sunday in Los Angeles’ second straight showdown between division leaders.
“It’s going to be kind of a group effort, and we’ve got a lot of confidence in those guys to step up,” McVay said. “Clearly it’s a big void that we’re going to be missing with Robert and what he’s brought to this team.”
Those guys include Sammy Watkins and rookie Cooper Kupp, who have been Goff’s top two wideout targets behind Woods.
Watkins has 24 catches for 408 yards and four touchdowns since joining the Rams during the preseason. Although his targets and effectiveness have risen and fallen during the season, he remains a big, speedy component in Los Angeles’ offense.
Kupp has a few memorable drops during his rookie season, but he also has emerged as a dependable target for Goff with 38 catches for 481 yards and three scores.
Woods, Watkins and Kupp are the Rams’ top three wide receivers, but McVay’s offense spreads the ball to all eligible receivers. Running back Todd Gurley has 38 catches for 425 yards in a remarkable show of versatility, while tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett have combined for 27 receptions.
And then there’s Tavon Austin, the Rams’ former No. 1 receiver. Austin got a four-year, $42 million contract extension before last season, but the 5-foot-8 speedster has been used primarily as a change-of-pace, gadget player out of the backfield by McVay.
Austin has 36 rushes and just seven receptions this season.
“I’m just ready whenever my name gets called,” Austin said. “We’ve got phenomenal players on this team, and other guys that can step in, too.”
Austin only played two snaps against the Vikings, and he described the afternoon as “very tough, just because of the competitor I am. But I’m a team player, so it doesn’t really make a difference to me.”
He has primarily taken handoffs this season, but his snaps have declined in recent weeks, a circumstance that McVay is determined to change. Austin would welcome the chance to line up more frequently as a wide receiver, but after spending his first four NFL seasons on losing teams, he’s more interested in results.
“At the end of the day, there’s only one ball,” Austin said. “I ain’t a selfish person. I’m just here, and when my name gets called, hopefully I’ll pop a big one.”
NOTES: LB Mark Barron missed Wednesday’s practice with a hand injury. CB Kayvon Webster also sat out while in the NFL’s concussion protocol, and CB Nickell Robey-Coleman rested his thigh injury. CB Troy Hill and TE Derek Carrier were full participants. McVay said it’s too early to know whether the Rams will be without one or two of their top defensive backs Sunday. ... The Rams re-signed TE Johnny Mundt to their practice squad, one day after waiving the Oregon product. Los Angeles also promoted cornerback Kevin Peterson from the practice squad to the active roster.