THOUSAND OAKS – It’s an arbitrary number, yet the fourth digit seems to make a difference, and for the first time since his sophomore year at USC, Robert Woods is about to be a 1,000-yard receiver.
It’s been a wide circle, one that took him to Buffalo and included a long list of bad quarterbacks before a homecoming when Woods signed with the Rams. Now in his sixth NFL season, Woods is enjoying his most personal and team success, and should be a quiet candidate for the Pro Bowl.
Woods entered this week with 971 receiving yards, which ranked him 13th among receivers this season. Woods’ average of 15.2 yards per reception ranks sixth among receivers with at least 50 catches.
“He’s an incredible player,” Coach Sean McVay said Friday. “He’s incredibly talented, but when you just match that up with how conscientious he is, how smart he is, how versatile he is, he can really do everything.”
Woods isn’t much different from last season, when a shoulder injury cost him three games and left him 219 yards short of 1,000. Woods still has the surest of hands, runs crisp routes and is a fierce run blocker.
Now he’s finally starting to get some attention, because of his statistics. It’s an arbitrary number – 1,000 – but Woods said it’s still a status symbol for receivers.
“Yeah, I would say so,” Woods said. “I think that’s like the mark. You either get over it or you don’t. For me to finally hit it, I feel like I could have been doing it. I’m just finally getting an opportunity to make the plays and get the ball in my hands and finally prove it.”
Rams receiver Brandin Cooks reached 1,000 yards for the season – for the fourth consecutive year – last Sunday against Detroit, and Woods will join him with another 29 yards. Assuming that happens, the Rams will have their first pair of 1,000-yard receivers since 2006, when Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce did it.
The Rams seemed to be on pace to have three 1,000-yard receivers before Cooper Kupp tore an ACL last month. Only five teams in NFL history have had a 1,000-yard trio.
“I think it’s a big accomplishment,” Woods said. “We talk about being a balanced team, and we prove that every single week. To have two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard running back who is still pounding, it’s just a complete offense, a unit full of guys who can do everything: run, pass and block.”
That certainly describes Woods, a second-round draft pick by Buffalo in 2013 who arrived in the NFL with lofty expectations but never seemed to match them with the Bills. From 2013-16, Woods was fairly consistent but never topped more than 65 receptions, 699 yards or five touchdowns, all of which he achieved in 2014.
At USC, Woods was a consensus All-America selection who totaled 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore. Woods said, when asked, that it bothered him he couldn’t reach the same level in the NFL.
“Yeah,” Woods said, “because I felt like I was that kind of receiver, that kind of player the whole time. I just wasn’t getting it.”
Woods has improved himself. His ability to extend his arms and make catches with strong hands, rather than simply pull the ball into his body, has become noticeably better since he joined the Rams as a free agent before last season.
By nature, though, Woods is too polite to point out the other reason for his statistical improvement: the fact that he got out of Buffalo. With the Bills, Woods caught passes for quarterbacks such as E.J. Manuel, Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel, Kyle Orton and Matt Cassel, not exactly an illustrious list.
With the Rams, Woods has connected with quarterback Jared Goff and is playing under a coach in McVay who is known for well-designed formations.
“Different style of team, different quarterbacks, different offensive scheme,” Woods said. “This is just a balanced offense, spreading the ball around and being productive.”
Woods and the Rams face a unique challenge this week. Not only will they be playing in frigid Chicago, but they also face a Bears defense that leads the NFL with 21 interceptions.
“They play the ball well in the air,” Woods said. “They definitely go after it. Fuller and Jackson definitely have a knack for finding the ball in the air. You’ve just got to be aggressive with them when it’s up.”
The Rams seemingly made it through another week without a significant injury issue, other than the shoulder injury that is expected to cost running back Malcolm Brown the rest of the season.
Cornerback Marcus Peters was listed on the injury report with an ankle issue but practiced all week. Offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan took their normal Thursday rest day but were full participants in Friday morning’s practice at Cal Lutheran.
KEEP IT COOL
Sunday’s kickoff temperature in Chicago is expected to be in the high 20s, with no rain or snow. It wasn’t possible for the Rams to duplicate those conditions this week, but they got some natural help.
This week’s practice at Cal Lutheran included rain, cold wind and temperatures in the low 50s, which qualifies as freezing for Southern California. Coach Sean McVay called it “a blessing in disguise.”
Rams players didn’t exactly express excitement about playing in the cold weather, even though the Rams already have won two games – at Seattle and Denver – in similar circumstances.
“I don’t know if you look forward to it,” Whitworth, the Rams’ oldest player, at 36, said. “I know my joints won’t be looking forward to it. It is fun. It does give you an atmosphere for a football game, what you think of as late-in-the-year football. That part will be exciting. Any opportunity you have, at the end of the year, to be playing meaningful games, you’ve got to really treasure that and realize how hard it is to get there.”
Note from WSOE.Org : This content has been auto-generated from a syndicated feed.