If the Rams employ a committee approach to make up for the loss of leading receiver Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins and, possibly, Tavon Austin could find leading or expanded roles.
Coach Sean McVay reiterated Wednesday that he planned to utilize a “group effort” to replace the production of Woods, who is nursing a shoulder injury that could sideline him for a few games.
Watkins is fourth on the team in receptions, but his targets are expected to increase Sunday when the Rams play the New Orleans Saints at the Coliseum.
Watkins has 24 catches, four for touchdowns.
The fourth-year pro does not need to change his approach, quarterback Jared Goff said.
“We need to find some ways to get him the ball a little bit more and something that we’ll definitely be conscious of,” Goff said.
In last week’s 24-7 loss at Minnesota, Woods was targeted 11 times and had eight receptions before he suffered a left shoulder injury.
Watkins was targeted four times and had three catches for 36 yards.
Goff has shown the ability to connect with Watkins in key situations. They combined for a spectacular over-the-shoulder completion and two touchdowns early in the season against the San Francisco 49ers, hooked up for a 67-yard touchdown against the New York Giants, and teamed for a touchdown against the Houston Texans.
Watkins, acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Bills during training camp, is “a special player” McVay said, but “we never want Jared to feel like he’s got to force the ball.”
Austin, mainly a receiver during his first four NFL seasons, has played mostly as running back Todd Gurley’s back-up.
Austin has rushed for 171 yards and a touchdown in 36 carries. He has seven receptions for 43 yards.
“I’m just ready whenever my name gets called,” Austin said.
Austin, who will earn nearly $15 million this season, was in for only two plays against the Vikings.
McVay said afterward that the flow of the game prevented him from carrying out a plan to utilize Austin more.
On Wednesday, Austin acknowledged it was difficult not to be on the field more.
“It was very tough, just on the aspect of the competitor I am, not of nothing else,” Austin said. “We had a plan. We definitely had a plan, and it just didn’t sync up at the time.”
Watkins, Austin and rookie Cooper Kupp are expected to be part of a rotation that could also include second-year pros Pharoh Cooper and Mike Thomas and rookie Josh Reynolds.
Cooper has six catches for 47 yards. He has played mainly as the kickoff and punt returner and on other special-teams units.
Cooper said he knows every receiver position and is capable of generating yards after catches. The former South Carolina star said there was no fear of a heavy workload.
“In college I was playing five positions in one game,” he said. “I’ll be ready if called on.”
During the preseason, the 6-foot-3, 192-pound Reynolds demonstrated an ability to get behind coverage on longer routes, but he has only one catch for 28 yards.
“Any opportunity I can get, I’m going to seize it and capitalize,” he said, noting, “you can’t coach height and length.”
Cornerbacks Kayvon Webster and Nickell Robey-Coleman did not participate in practice because of injuries suffered against the Vikings.
Webster is in concussion protocol and Robey-Coleman is trying to work through a thigh issue.
Cornerback Troy Hill returned to practice, and the Rams promoted cornerback Kevin Peterson from the practice squad. The Rams added cornerback Marcus Sayles to the practice squad.
Peterson was on the roster for the Rams’ 27-20 defeat by the Washington Redskins, who went after him for the game-winning touchdown pass.