Rams Coach Sean McVay Put Underperforming Rookie Receiver Tutu Atwell on Notice Amid DeSean Jackson Trade Rumors: ‘He’s Got to Be Ready to Go‘

Article Highlights:

  • Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay called out rookie receiver Tutu Atwell
  • Atwell, the 57th overall pick in April’s NFL draft, had zero catches in the Rams’ first seven games
  • The explosive slot receiver could see increased snaps as DeSean Jackson seeks a trade

Whatever Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams expected from slot receivers DeSean Jackson and Tutu Atwell isn’t what they’ve gotten. Far from it, actually.

The Rams’ loaded receiver depth hasn’t allowed Jackson, the speedy three-time Pro Bowler, and Atwell, the 57th overall pick in April’s NFL draft, to see the field too often. One would understandably think Jackson’s potential departure would clear a path for Atwell, a two-time All-ACC selection at Louisville, to finally earn meaningful offensive snaps.

Tell that to McVay, who recently shared a dose of reality that doesn’t bode well for the 22-year-old rookie.

Sean McVay put second-round rookie receiver Tutu Atwell on notice

As Jackson and the Rams seek a trade partner, he won’t play against the Houston Texans in Week 8. Considering he only had eight catches in seven games off the bench and averaged 14 snaps per outing, we don’t think his absence will mean much in the long haul.

Those who cover the Rams recently asked McVay multiple times about Atwell potentially getting increased action. The rookie has only played 10 offensive snaps and had 12 total returns on special teams in the first seven weeks.

According to USA Today, McVay said on Wednesday, Oct. 27, that he wants to see Atwell have a “little bit more [of an] increased sense of urgency,” especially with so many veteran receivers ahead of him on the depth chart.

“The return opportunities have been limited, and then he’s really not playing at all at receiver for us, so think you’ve just got to be patient and he’s got to just work behind the scenes and when he does get his opportunity – whether it’s this week, next week, at some point – he’s got to be ready to go.”

Sean McVay

As of publication, the Rams’ most recent official depth chart listed Jackson and Van Jefferson as co-starters at the third receiving position. Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods are the established starters at the other two receiving spots.

Atwell cannot let any type of opportunity go to waste right now

Anyone expecting Atwell to immediately start playing over 50% of the Rams’ offensive snaps needs to temper their expectations. Keep in mind that seven of his 10 total offensive snaps came in a 38-11 victory over the New York Giants in Week 6.

However, just because he won’t become a mainstay in every formation doesn’t mean Atwell can’t take advantage of any increase in snaps. He and the Rams need to take things one play at a time. A 3-yard catch on 2nd-and-10 could pave the way for a target later that drive or a jet sweep in the next quarter.

Atwell excelled in college on jet sweeps, screens, and shorter passes. Conversely, Jackson has always thrived, even in his older age, as a deep-ball receiver and vertical threat. 

Again, it’s one play at a time. The Rams have the depth needed to gradually work Atwell into the offense as the season progresses and use his strengths, including a 4.32-second 40-yard dash time, as another rotational weapon in a deep offense.

If not? Atwell can only hope McVay has enough faith in him going forward to allow him to try again in 2022.

Look for Van Jefferson to continue stepping up even if Atwell can’t

As it stands, the Rams don’t stand to miss Jackson too much, and that’s even if Atwell doesn’t become a significant factor going forward. 

Jefferson, the second-year receiver from the University of Florida, quietly caught 21 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns in the Rams’ first seven games. He played at least 60% of the team’s offensive snaps in six of those outings.

Most of the snaps which once went to Jackson should, in theory, go to Jefferson going forward. He’s already playing enough of a major role in the Rams’ offense that an extra 5-10 snaps per game will only help him build more chemistry with Matthew Stafford.

Now, if McVay and his staff can use Atwell’s playmaking ability and his breakaway speed to their advantage, an already-prolific offense stands to become far more dangerous. If not, at least Jefferson has taken the second-year jump that Atwell should hope to achieve next year.

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