With Cooper Kupp missing the entirety of the first month and not being eligible to return until Week 5 after being placed on IR before the season began, Matthew Stafford has found a new favorite target in fifth-round rookie out of BYU, Puka Nacua.
After transferring from Washington to BYU, Nacua put up 1,430 yards and 11 touchdowns in the receiving game in his final two years of his eligibility, leading to the Rams taking him in the 2023 draft with minimal expectations for at least his rookie year.
Then, he came out of nowhere and had a dominant Week 1 performance vs. Seattle, recording 119 yards on 10 receptions en route to a 30-13 win. Although they lost to title contenders and divisional rivals San Francisco 49ers in Week 2, the former Cougar had a record-setting performance, hauling in 15 passes-- the most by a rookie in a single game-- for 147 yards.
There's no doubt that Stafford will continue to look towards his young weapon against a Bengals' defense that has been surprisingly slow to start off the 2023 season. So far, Nick Scott (a former Ram) has been a liability in coverage, giving up six catches of the seven times he was targeted, per PFF. Chidobe Awuzie is another Bengal who is trying to shake off injury rust after missing the second half of the 2022 season. Both of these players have allowed a passer rating of over 100.0+ when targeted.
Now, two games is a small sample size, but this is still an area of concern as of now, and I imagine Sean McVay and Stafford will try to exploit this weakness with their new tool in the passing game. Hopefully, the DBs and the defense as a whole step up in this crucial primetime game and prevent Puka from having another explosive performance.