Cooper Kupp’s 2021 season is set to be one of the best in NFL history. The Rams’ top wideout is on pace to break both Calvin Johnson’s receiving yards record of 1,964 and Michael Thomas’ receptions record of 149 during the NFL’s first 17-game season and his first year with Matthew Stafford.
How has Kupp made such a rapid rise after he posted just one 1,000-yard campaign in his first four NFL seasons? It boils down to a couple of key factors for him.
“I’ve been hanging out with some really good football players and having a few more opportunities to have the ball in my hands, and I think it really just comes down to those things,” Kupp told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer over the weekend.
Kupp certainly has gotten more opportunities. He has been targeted 177 times through 15 games this season and has a whopping 33 percent target share as Stafford’s top weapon and security blanket. Clearly, the relationship between the two has led to Kupp’s success.
NFL POWER RANKINGS: Where Rams check in among NFL’s best teams
As for internal factors that have helped him, Kupp explained that his rise to stardom hasn’t so much been caused by a massive improvement in any one area. Instead, it has been a collective, five-year process of tweaking things to become one of the NFL’s best pass catchers.
“I’m not sure I can put my finger on one specific thing,” Kupp said of his improvement. “I look back at my rookie year, and it’s embarrassing watching the tape of what my rookie year was. And I’d like to think that at the end of every year, as I watched the full season and tried to reflect on what the year was, what kind of things I saw from myself, I’d just try to just improve the things that [were] most important to improve. And I just take that mentality year after year, try to get better and better and better. Never get comfortable being at whatever I’m at. Never believing that I’ve arrived. So I have taken that mentality.”
MORE: Panthers’ Cam Newton defends “great coach” Matt Rhule
Kupp’s being a bit harsh in calling his rookie season “embarrassing.” He still caught 62 passes for 869 yards and five touchdowns and was one of the most productive, young receivers in the NFL during the 2017 season after being picked in the third round out of Eastern Washington. Certainly, it pales in comparison to where he’s at now, but so would the rookie year of most top-tier NFL receivers.
The Rams have certainly appreciated the performance of Kupp, as their success has been linked to his performance. They are 8-1 on the season when he logs over 100 receiving yards, so the Rams should have every reason to continue to funnel targets to him as he looks to take down Thomas and Johnson’s records.
MORE: Antonio Brown blasts media for creating “drama” around suspension
That said, Kupp admitted that he hasn’t paid too much attention to the records he is chasing. He is more focused on helping the Rams top what has been a hyper-competitive NFC West race.
“I don’t have social media on my phone, so the only time I ever hear about it is when you guys tell me about it,” he said.