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Robert Woods says he has new slot well in hand as Rams prepare for 49ers

Robert Woods says he has new slot well in hand as Rams prepare for 49ers
Rams receiver Robert Woods indicates a first down against the Denver Broncos during the second half on Sunday. (Dustin Bradford / Getty Images)

For Robert Woods, there are fond memories of playing the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.

Woods caught six passes and produced his first 100-yard receiving game for the Rams last season in a Week 3 victory that helped propel them to the NFC West title and their first playoff appearance since 2004.

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So Woods is looking forward to returning to the Bay Area on Sunday when the unbeaten Rams play the struggling 49ers.

Woods has 51 receptions and ranks eighth in the NFL with 524 yards receiving. He is perhaps the most versatile receiver for a group that has helped the Rams to a 6-0 start.

On Sunday, for the second game in a row — but for the first time from the outset — Woods will play the slot position in place of Cooper Kupp, who suffered a concussion against the Seattle Seahawks and a knee sprain in last week’s 23-20 victory over the Denver Broncos.

“It’s not anything different — still playing a receiver position,” Woods said Friday. “Just moved around with different formations and certain details of plays.”

Woods caught seven passes for 109 yards last week against the Broncos.

During the offseason, coach Sean McVay and receivers coach Eric Yarber asked Woods to work on catching the ball with “aggressive hands” away from his body. The former USC star did the work and has made multiple tough catches in that mode.

“He’s got some of the best hands I’ve ever played with,” quarterback Jared Goff said, adding, “Most of his catches nowadays, it’s all out in front of his body. … He’s just become a guy that I can really trust with any route, any sort of cut, anything. He’s a guy that I really have a lot of faith in.”

Woods’ move to the slot opens a spot for second-year pro Josh Reynolds to join a starting receiving corps that also includes Brandin Cooks.

Woods said he spent the early part of the week reviewing all of the details of the slot.

“By Thursday, Friday and when the Saturday walk-through comes, you have the game plan down and there’s no thinking,” he said.

New receiver

Receiver Nick Williams, signed this week to provide depth, might be among the 46 active players Sunday, McVay said.

“He’s gotten up to speed pretty quickly,” McVay said, “and he might have a chance to be utilized.”

Williams received a crash course in the Rams’ offense, though it is not entirely new to him.

Williams played for three NFL teams with the branches from the same coaching tree. McVay was the Washington Redskins’ tight ends coach in 2013. Williams played under Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta, and Matt LaFleur this season at Tennessee before he was released.

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The call from the Rams was “kind of out of the blue,” Williams said, but welcome.

“I’m somewhat well-versed in the system, so I guess that was part of the reason,” said Williams, who has 28 catches, two for touchdowns, in parts of four-plus NFL seasons.

“Guys that get signed in the middle of the year, it’s usually something along those lines because it’s tough to learn the playbook if you had to learn it brand new right in the middle of things.”

Rams receivers have been welcoming and helpful, he said.

“They’ve been an open book,” he said. “All my questions get thorough answers. … They’ve been high level and great to me.”

Williams offered no predictions about how he would be utilized.

“Be as prepared as I can, be on the details and then just high effort and play as hard as you can every play,” he said.

Zuerlein ready to go

Early in the week, the Rams released kicker Cairo Santos because McVay said kicker Greg Zuerlein was fully cleared and ready to go after recovering from a groin injury that had sidelined him for five games.

But Zuerlein indicated he would wait until he practiced to determine whether he was back.

On Friday, Zuerlein proclaimed himself fit.

“Should be good,” he said. “Got the kicks in, feel good, feel confident.

“Now just have to go out and execute on Sunday.”

Zuerlein kicked four field goals in the season-opening victory over the Oakland Raiders, including one from 55 yards. He was injured during warmups for a Week 2 game against the Arizona Cardinals.

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