Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods? Rams like their new receiving corps

Brandin Cooks should give coach Sean McVay and the Rams the sort of speed they need on the outside to keep the NFL's No. 1 offense churning. Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Brandin Cooks is fast. Just ask Sean McVay. He can't stop talking about it.

"How fast was Brandin Cooks? ... How about how fast Cooks looked on that strike? … How about how fast Cooks is? Is that awesome?"

Cooks, his new receiver, showed some speed.

In a series of offseason moves, the Rams sent their first-round draft pick to the New England Patriots in exchange for Cooks, who is expected to provide a deep target for quarterback Jared Goff in a receiving corps that returns starters Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, as well as Pharoh Cooper, Josh Reynolds and Mike Thomas.

"If there is one thing that Brandin has done a nice job of specifically the last few years," McVay said before the start of the offseason program, "it's being able to go get that deep ball."

Cooks has caught 27 touchdowns in four seasons and his ability to stretch the field, along with Woods' sure hands and return to health, will be paramount as the Rams seek to repeat as the NFL's highest-scoring team and win a second consecutive NFC West title.

"He's going to fit in very nice," Woods said of his new teammate. "You know you seen him the first couple of days tearing things up. You see his speed already. I think he's a big impact for this offense."

The Rams prioritized keeping safety Lamarcus Joyner with the franchise tag over receiver Sammy Watkins, leaving Watkins to sign a three-year, $30 million guaranteed deal with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Last season Watkins became a reliable target for Goff in the red zone, but never developed into a reliable deep target after he was acquired from the Buffalo Bills late in training camp. Watkins finished the season with 39 receptions for 593 yards and eight touchdowns.

Following rumors that the Rams were interested in acquiring Odell Beckham Jr. from the New York Giants, they traded for the 24-year-old Cooks, who last season caught 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns for the Patriots.

"It's a great, great guy to have in the room with those other guys," Goff said. "I think you can't ask for much more with Brandin, Robert, Cooper, that combination."

Kupp, during his rookie season, led the team with 869 yards and was second with 62 receptions while catching five touchdowns.

But it was Woods who set the tone for the receiving corps.

After four seasons with the Bills, Woods established himself as a veteran presence and leader among a group that needed a turnaround from the 2016 season.

Widely considered a No. 2 receiver when he was acquired, Woods looked the part of a top playmaker in a victory over the New York Giants, when he took a screen pass on third-and-33 and turned it into a 52-yard touchdown.

And against the Houston Texans, Woods caught a deep pass in stride for a 94-yard touchdown.

He led the Rams in receptions until suffering a shoulder injury during a Week 11 loss to the Minnesota Vikings that kept him sidelined for three weeks. Woods finished the season with 56 receptions for 781 yards and five touchdowns.

But now Woods, a sixth-year pro in the second season of a five-year, $34 million contract, is fully recovered and said that he -- and the receiving corps -- are further ahead in their development than they were last offseason as they prepare for the start of mandatory minicamp.

"Big improvements from last year," Woods said. "Just our timing with Jared, the offense is more advanced than where we were at this point, but just moving forward and still trying to grasp more of the concepts."

With Woods and Cooks, McVay's offense could display more of the explosive passing game that the Rams demonstrated in a Week 3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, when Woods caught six passes for 108 yards and Watkins caught six for 106.

The duo's combined performance was thought to be the first of what would be a long season working in tandem with Goff. But as the weeks passed, it became apparent that the Goff-Watkins connection, outside of a reliable slant in the end zone, would never materialize. The Week 3 contest was the only game in which Woods and Watkins each surpassed 100 yards receiving.

Some of Watkins' shortcomings were attributed to the coverage defenses dedicated to him; others pointed to his inability to develop a rapport with Goff after his arrival last August.

Time to develop chemistry shouldn't be an issue for Cooks, who was acquired in April.

"The more time they get to be comfortable and familiar with each other," McVay said of Cooks and Goff, "I think the better we'll be served as an offense. I think the learning curve won't be quite as steep."

Goff and the receivers worked together before the offseason program began. And Goff already was familiar with Cooks, who starred at Oregon State, while he played at California.

"I actually played him in college once and I've seen him obviously across the league in the last three to four years and understand his versatility," Goff said. "I know Sean will come up with ways to use him and put us in the best situation possible."

For Cooks, he said it's too soon to tell exactly how he'll fit in the offense, but said he was confident McVay would figure it out.

"McVay does such a great job of calling plays and putting their players in their best spots and as far as that, players coming out, executing and trusting the process," Cooks said. "That's what I think makes this offense special -- there's no selfishness."