Receivers Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp ready to step up even more for Rams

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Finding hills to run in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California proved to be no problem throughout the offseason for Los Angeles Rams receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp.

But finding open tracks or, better yet, open fields to train when California was almost entirely locked down because of the coronavirus pandemic?

Those were much more difficult to come by.

"I really just tried to bounce around from track to track, high school to high school," Woods said. "Get some work in before we got kicked off the field."

Said Kupp: "The regimen really consisted of getting kicked off just about every field here in Thousand Oaks, which was fun."

And even as Rams players, they couldn't convince the local gatekeepers or authorities to give them a free pass.

"It worked for day one, but it went above somebody, and they got us kicked off," Woods said smiling.

As the Rams attempt to rebound from a 9-7 season that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time in Sean McVay's three seasons as coach, Woods and Kupp will play key roles in an offense that must evolve following the departure of running back Todd Gurley II and receiver Brandin Cooks, plus the addition of offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell.

"There will be some new things definitely," quarterback Jared Goff said. "But the core of it will remain the same."

Over three seasons in L.A., Woods and Kupp have emerged as go-to targets for Goff, as they've quietly ascended toward the top of the NFL's receiver duos and qualify as standouts who have outplayed their current contracts.

Woods has two seasons remaining on a five-year, $34 million deal that he signed as a free agent. A third-round pick in 2017, Kupp is entering the final season of his rookie contract and is scheduled to earn $2.1 million. Both are eager to reach long-term extensions to remain in L.A., though neither has been outspoken in demanding to get a deal done.

It's not their style as individuals or as a unit.

"We're not like the flashiest group of receivers," Woods said. "But we're just up there with production, up there with the best if not the best, as a group and as a unit."

Fourth-year receiver Josh Reynolds and rookie Van Jefferson round out the group, but it's Woods and Kupp who are expected to shoulder most of the production.

Last season, Woods caught 90 passes for 1,134 yards and two touchdowns. He led all NFL receivers with 577 yards after the catch and has proven the past three seasons that he can play any receiver spot.

Kupp, who underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL and missed most of the 2018 season, bounced back last season. He led the Rams with 94 receptions for 1,161 yards and 10 touchdowns -- which ranked second among NFL receivers behind the Detroit Lions' Kenny Golladay's 11 touchdown receptions. Kupp's 544 yards after the catch ranked fourth among receivers, and he ranked third in his position group with 184 receiving yards after first contact.

"Me and Cooper, really just being dominant on our side of the ball, no slack off when we are in rotation and really, we're all number one receivers and that's what we like to think," Woods said. "We want to be out there and make plays no matter where the ball is going."

Woods and Kupp were one of only two teammate duos that ranked among the top 15 in targets, joining Cleveland Browns receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.

"We have to be mindful from a self-scout of getting different guys involved, but understanding that Robert and Cooper are going to be big parts of our offense," McVay said. "You want to get them their touches, but when you talk about selfless receivers, I've just appreciated working with these guys over the last couple of years so much."

Entering his fourth season with the duo, Goff lauded Woods' pro mentality and Kupp's continued development.

"We've got such a good rapport at this point and are getting to the point where you don't really have to talk to each other," said Goff, who targeted Woods or Kupp on 43% of his throws last season. "You kind of just look at each other and you know what each other are thinking and have such a good feel for each other."

Said McVay: "Watching those two and their communication amongst one another or with Jared, it's really impressive. In some instances, it's good as a coach where you can just step back and let them take that autonomy and ownership because it's certainly earned."

Reynolds is expected to be the early replacement for Cooks, who was traded to the Houston Texans in April in exchange for a 2020 second-round pick and a 2022 fourth-rounder.

In three seasons, including 11 starts, Reynolds has caught 61 passes for 832 yards and seven touchdowns. But the fourth-year pro, who also is entering the final season of his rookie deal and will earn $2.1 million, will be challenged by Jefferson.

The Rams selected Jefferson with a second-round pick, No. 57 overall, from Florida.

"He's a really impressive guy. I've really been impressed with his maturity just in the week that we've been around one another in person," McVay said. "He is a guy that's wired to separate, he's got great body control. You can see his football pedigree."

As they returned to the Rams' practice facility to begin training camp preparation, Woods and Kupp expressed relief that they no longer needed to traverse Southern California to find an open field to eventually be kicked off of.

"We made due with it," Kupp said, adding, "I feel like we've attacked that offseason the right way."