Growing up in Detroit, Allen Robinson watched a parade of Lions quarterbacks come and go.
In 2009, when Robinson was a junior at St. Mary’s Prep High, the Lions chose Matthew Stafford with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.
“In my existence of watching Detroit Lions football, there was nobody who threw the ball even close to how he did in Detroit,” Robinson said.
Thirteen years later, and three months after signing with the Rams, Robinson is catching passes from Stafford for a team preparing to make a run at a second consecutive Super Bowl title. The Rams, who have been conducting voluntary offseason workouts since April, begin organized team activities on Monday in Thousand Oaks.
Robinson is the high-profile addition to a receiving corps that has changed since the Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. In March, the Rams signed Robinson and traded veteran Robert Woods to the Tennessee Titans. The Rams offered Odell Beckham Jr. a new contract, but he remains a free agent.
Cooper Kupp, the NFL offensive player of the year, returns to lead a group that includes Robinson, third-year pro Van Jefferson, second-year pros Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek and Jacob Harris, and kick returner Brandon Powell.
“Looks pretty good on paper,” Stafford said in March of the receiving corps. “It’s on us to go out there and make sure that it comes to life.”
Kupp is aiming to build on one of the most historic performances in NFL history. In his fifth NFL season, Kupp achieved the so-called triple crown of receiving by leading the league with 145 catches for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Kupp is due to carry a salary-cap number of $18.7 million this season, according to overthecap.com. With salaries for receivers skyrocketing the last few months, Kupp is in line for a contract extension that could make him one of the highest-paid players at his position.
So how does Kupp improve on last season’s performance, which included two touchdown catches in the Super Bowl?
“The goal’s not to put more statistical numbers out there,” Kupp said. “The goal’s not to make more catches or yards or anything like that.
“The goal is to be a better football player. … There’s things across the board, in terms of my game, that I want to be better at.”
Robinson joins the Rams after four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and four with the Chicago Bears. He has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving three times, earning Pro Bowl recognition in 2015.
The versatile 6-foot-2 Robinson is regarded as an elite jump-ball, contested-catch receiver. Robinson is expected to provide coach Sean McVay, offensive coordinator Liam Coen and Stafford a weapon across the field, and especially inside the 20-yard line.
“It has a chance to take our offense to the next level,” tight end Tyler Higbee said of Robinson’s addition.
Robinson used the offseason workouts to acclimate to the Rams’ system. He is building chemistry with Stafford, who passed for 41 touchdowns last season.
“He’s a super humble guy, even with everything he’s accomplished in the league,” Robinson said. “He’s a stand-up dude, man, and whenever you’re playing with guys like that, it really makes your job a little bit easier.”
Since he has been “hunkered down” while learning a new system, Robinson said he has yet to experience an L.A. moment. He is keenly aware of the sports and entertainment landscape in the region.
“My main focus is just making sure I’m locked in on what my task is at hand right now,” he said. “Some of those experiences will come down the line.”
Jefferson, a third-year pro, was familiar with Robinson: They attended the same high school for two years, though they were not teammates.
He welcomes Robinson’s arrival.
“He has crisp routes, the way he catches the ball, the way he runs after catch — I think he’s going to fit right in,” Jefferson said. “There’s things in his game that I will try to implement in mine.”
Jefferson impressed as a rookie in 2020, and increased his production last season, catching 50 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns.
After catching four passes in the Super Bowl, Jefferson was informed by a Rams executive on the field that Jefferson’s wife, Samaria, had gone into labor during the game.
“I had my two other children there with me, so them being so little they wanted to celebrate more being in the confetti,” Jefferson said. “But hey, we got to go.”
Jefferson said he communicated with his wife over FaceTime as she gave the birth of their son, Champ.
“It was a crazy experience, but it worked out perfect,” he said. “My wife was saying the whole time, ‘I know the baby’s going to come on the Super Bowl,’ and I was like, ‘Ah, I don’t think so.’
“She was right.”
With Kupp, Robinson and Jefferson entrenched as the top three receivers, there will be competition for other roles.
Atwell, a second-round draft pick in 2021, appeared as if he was starting to become comfortable near midseason. Then he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against Houston Texans.
Skowronek, a seventh-round pick in 2021, made an impact on special teams and also stepped up as a receiver, catching 11 passes for 133 yards.
The 6-5 Harris was drafted as a tight end, but he was transitioning to a receiver role when he suffered a season-ending knee injury during a defeat by the Tennessee Titans.
Kick returner Brandon Powell is also a receiver.
But the looming question is whether Beckham will re-sign with the Rams.
The three-time Pro Bowl player joined the Rams at midseason in 2021 and starred during their Super Bowl run. He caught two passes for 52 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl before suffering a knee injury that required surgery. Beckham is not expected to be ready to play until midseason.
The Rams have offered Beckham a contract, but he is expected to survey the NFL landscape before deciding on his next move.
Regardless, Rams receivers and their teammates are preparing for another possible Super Bowl run. No team has repeated as Super Bowl champion since the New England Patriots in the 2004 season.
“You want to experience that feeling again — as many times as you can,” Jefferson said. “So I think everyone has that drive to get back to that moment and experience that moment again.”
A look at top Rams receivers as they begin organized team activity workouts.
Name, Age, Ht., Wt., Salary Cap Number*
Cooper Kupp, 28, 6-2, 208, $18.7 million
Could become first to achieve receiving triple crown two years in a row.
Allen Robinson, 28, 6-2, 210, $4.3 million
Versatile route runner and elite catcher of 50-50 balls.
Van Jefferson, 25, 6-1, 200, $1.5 million
Third-year pro averaged team-best 16 yards per catch in 2021.
Tutu Atwell, 22, 5-9, 165, $1.3 million
Opportunity to show he has overcome rookie struggles and injury.
Ben Skowronek, 24, 6-3, 224, $846,000
Proved as a rookie that he can be more than a special teams staple.
Brandon Powell, 26, 5-8, 181, $895,000
Provided needed special teams jolt as punt and kick returner.
Jacob Harris, 25, 6-5, 211, $950,000
Second-year pro, drafted as a tight end, is coming off knee surgery.