The 2017 Rams surprised pretty much everyone outside of Los Angeles, as Jared Goff took command of the offense, elevating the team to new heights. Amid the surge in the offense’s performance, several players were the beneficiaries of the improved production. Aside from running back Todd Gurley and (then) rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods stood out as one of the biggest playmakers on the team.
Woods came to the Rams from the Bills, where a variety of factors limited his output on the field. The potential had always been there, but poor quarterback play and bad play calling really hindered his numbers. The Rams did not make the same mistake, instead choosing to feature Woods as a key part of the offensive attack. Despite playing just 12 games due to injury, Woods piled on 56 receptions for 781 yards and five touchdowns. He was on pace for over 100 targets and 1,000 yards on the year.
As the offseason began, it quickly became evident that the Rams were one of the most active teams to pursue talent. They added Brandin Cooks from the Patriots, who is the most obvious obstacle to Woods’ 2018 production. Cooks has surpassed 1,000 yards in each of the last three seasons, including touchdown totals of eight, six, and nine, respectively. He did all of that as a member of both the Saints and Pats, showing his ability to adapt to a new playbook and teammates in short order.
Jared Goff also showed a strong rapport with Cooper Kupp, who had 62 catches for 869 yards and five receiving scores of his own in 2017. With a full offseason under his belt to work with Goff, there is reason to believe that Kupp will have an even better sophomore campaign. Moreover, there has been substantial talks around Rams camp that the team intends to increase the target shares for their tight ends, opting to diversify Goff’s passing game options, further utilizing all weapons and the entire scope of the field against opposing defenses.
While all of these factors are indeed concerning for Woods’ individual numbers, the strategy will likely be best for the team’s offense. It’s also important to consider that the Rams employ a run-heavy approach, and they used Gurley heavily in the passing attack. Gurley had almost been written off by fans as a potential bust, but he proved everyone wrong last year, when he flourished to the tune of 1,305 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He also added a highly impressive 64 catches on the year, which he turned into 788 yards and another six trips to the end zone. Head coach Sean McVay’s decision to get Gurley the ball in space paid major dividends, as he showed what can do in the open field on a consistent basis.
With so many viable and even explosive options in the passing game, it will be difficult for Woods to sustain his 2017 target share, which stood at 22.5 percent if you only tally the games in which he was active.
Additionally, the fact that the Rams really bolstered their defense could lead to a decrease in pass attempts. Poor defenses usually set their teams back in deficits, leading to added pass attempts. Conversely, a strong defense typically works best with a power running game that controls the clock and keeps the opposing offense off the field. The offseason additions of cornerbacks Marcus Peters (from Kansas City) and Aqib Talib (Denver), could be huge for the overall tenacity of this unit. Both guys play physical and run to the football. They also are great at creating turnovers, which could lead to big leads for the Rams.
Woods figures to remain a significant part of the offense, but expecting him to retain such a large percentage of Goff’s looks is likely unrealistic. While he should still contribute to the team’s success, it is far more likely that he takes a back seat to some of the other playmakers on this team during the 2018 season.