LOS ANGELES — Puka Nacua, a rookie for the Los Angeles Rams, has made waves in the NFL with his exceptional performance in his first two games. His 10th catch in the recent game set a rookie record for the most catches in their first two games. He continued to impress with his 11th catch, surpassing 100 yards receiving for the second consecutive game. However, it was his 12th catch that truly showcased his prowess on the field.
During a crucial fourth-and-2 situation, with the Rams trailing the San Francisco 49ers by 10 points and just over 10 minutes remaining, quarterback Matthew Stafford connected with Nacua. Despite being met by two defenders after his first step, Nacua trudged forward for an additional yard after the catch. Although the drive ended in a field goal and the Rams fell short in their comeback attempt, Nacua’s determination was evident.
Nacua currently leads the NFL with an impressive 111 yards after the catch this season, the most by any Rams player in the team’s first two games since wide receiver Cooper Kupp’s 146 yards in 2021. He and Kupp are the only Rams wide receivers to achieve 100 yards in their team’s first two games in the last 15 seasons.
This remarkable opportunity for Nacua to lead the league in targets is due to the absence of Kupp, their star receiver and Super Bowl LVI MVP. Kupp will miss at least two more games due to a lingering hamstring issue. Nacua has seized the opportunity and leads the league with an impressive 35 targets, surpassing other prominent receivers like Justin Jefferson and Tyreek Hill.
Nacua’s outstanding performance includes a record-breaking 15 receptions in the Rams’ Week 2 loss, the most by a rookie in NFL history. The tally also ranks as the second-most receptions in a game in Rams history, only trailing Tom Fears’ 18 receptions in 1950.
Despite being labeled an unheralded fifth-rounder, Rams coach Sean McVay described Nacua as “a real pleasant surprise” during training camp. However, those who have known Nacua for longer than McVay were not surprised by his success.
BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick expressed confidence in Nacua’s abilities before the draft, stating that he believed Nacua would be a great pro, and those who passed on him would regret it. Roderick’s foresight seems to be coming true as Nacua continues to excel in the NFL.
Nacua’s talent in contested ball situations stood out to scouts and personnel executives before the draft. He has a unique ability to make contested catches, adjusting his body with precision to secure the ball even in challenging situations. Nacua’s physicality has also been noted at the NFL level, showcasing aggressive hands and great contact balance.
Growing up as the second-youngest of six kids, Nacua’s toughness and physical style of play were honed through years of competition within his family. He developed a mentality of delivering blows rather than receiving them, showcasing his physicality on the field.
However, Nacua’s success has not come without challenges. Injury history played a role in his drop to the fifth round of the draft. Despite facing injuries during his college career, Nacua remained resilient and focused on his abilities, ultimately earning the trust of the Rams’ coaching staff and standing out as a versatile and dynamic player.
In the NFL, Nacua has been utilized in various roles and has impressed with his versatility. He has earned the trust of the coaching staff, showcased his understanding of the game, and demonstrated his ability to adapt to different play styles.
Calling all @AsapPuka Fans! (New 😉 and old)
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 20, 2023
As a rookie, Nacua is learning from experienced veterans in the Rams’ receiver room, seeking guidance and accelerating his learning process. With two record-breaking games under his belt, Nacua has made a significant impact on the field and is poised to continue his success throughout the season.
In just two weeks, Nacua has emerged as a record-breaking rookie, leaving a lasting impression on the NFL with his exceptional skills and determination to make a mark in the league.
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