The Los Angeles Rams are leaning on a handful of first-year players on both sides of the ball and those players showed up to begin the season. After taking down the Seattle Seahawks in the season opener, Puka Nacua and Byron Young were listed among the top 10 rookie debuts in Week 1 by the Next Gen Stats Analytics Team.
With Cooper Kupp sidelined for the Rams in Week 1, Nacua led the team in targets (15) and receptions (10), while tying Tutu Atwell for the team lead with 119 receiving yards. The rookie fifth-round pick had 45 yards after the catch and led all rookie receivers with +7.9 EPA (expected points added) when he was targeted, earning him the highest overall score by Next Gen Stats among rookies in Week 1.
Nacua proved that he could be a fantastic contributor in the passing game even when Kupp returns to the offense. That being said, Nacua is dealing with an oblique injury and is questionable to play on Sunday versus the San Francisco 49ers.
In the third round of this year’s draft, the Rams added Young in hopes he could provide a spark to the pass-rushing unit. The Tennessee product would register five total pressures, four combined tackles, and half a sack against the Seahawks in Week 1.
Young would be on the field for 38 defensive snaps and his five pressures were second to only Will Anderson Jr. among rookie edge rushers in Week 1. As a result of his stellar debut, Young came in at No. 9 with an overall score of 71 by Next Gen Stats.
The Rams are buying into a youth movement this season, and it was a positive sign to see Nacua and Young make key contributions already.