Rams newcomer Robert Woods is looking out for No. 1 receiver role
In a recent ceremony at his old high school, legendary status was bestowed upon Robert Woods.
Gardena Serra made the new Rams receiver the first recipient of “Serra Legend” recognition. In honor of his performance on the field, and the character he displays on and off it, a patch bearing Woods’ name will adorn the jerseys of all future players who wear No. 2 for the Cavaliers.
The Rams were not in search of a legend this offseason when they wooed Woods home with a five-year, $34-million free-agent contract.
New coach Sean McVay wanted a dependable, sure-handed route runner, a respected veteran to set an example for younger players in the locker room.
Woods, however, insists he can be more.
After four NFL seasons mainly playing a secondary role for the Buffalo Bills, there is no doubt in Woods’ mind that he can be a primary receiver.
“I feel like I definitely am a No. 1,” he said in March after an introductory news conference.
Woods, 25, this week repeated his intent to earn that profile when the Rams began organized team activity workouts at Cal Lutheran.
“I always come in attacking the season trying to be the No. 1 receiver,” he said.
The 6-foot, 193-pound Woods must increase his production to achieve that status among fans and NFL observers.
After an All-American career at USC — where he established a school record with 252 receptions in three seasons — he has averaged nearly 51 catches per season since his selection in the second round of the 2013 draft.
But that was playing in mostly run-based offenses that featured quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and E.J. Manuel, running back LeSean McCoy and receiver Sammy Watkins.
Last season, the Bills led the NFL in rushing but ranked 30th in passing, one spot ahead of the Rams.
Woods caught 51 passes for 613 yards and a touchdown.
Woods, though, points to a November game against the Seattle Seahawks. He was targeted 13 times and responded with 10 catches for 162 yards, both career bests.
The Rams apparently took notice.
With McVay intent on instilling a new culture, the Rams let 1,000-yard receiver Kenny Britt leave as a free agent. They also did not re-sign receiver Brian Quick.
The Rams pursued receiver Pierre Garcon, who produced under McVay with the Washington Redskins. But when the price got too steep, they turned their attention to Woods.
“A pro’s pro,” McVay said after the first OTA workout.
Woods did not spend much time celebrating his new contract. A few days after signing with the Rams, he began working out with quarterback Jared Goff at a high school near the Rams’ training facility in Thousand Oaks.
“Just trying to get our timing down early,” Woods said, “just so our first impression with McVay and [offensive coordinator] Matt LaFleur was a good one.”
A connection is clearly forming.
During a workout a few weeks ago, Woods said, he and Goff missed on a play when the defense presented a certain look. On Tuesday, the first day of OTA practice, they got the same look.
“And this time, he threw it and it was a perfect pass,” Woods said. “He just puts the ball in perfect position for the receivers to make plays.”
Goff said Woods has been “more than I could have really expected,” noting his competitiveness and adding, “It’s really exciting for me to have a guy like that, multiple guys like that, but him in particular.”
Woods is part of a receiving corps that includes veteran Tavon Austin, second-year pros such as Pharoh Cooper and Mike Thomas and rookies Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds, among others.
Woods, in the meantime, is making an impression.
Rams receivers coach Eric Yarber was on college staffs at Washington and Arizona State when he began tracking Woods at Serra.
“I remember when he was in the ninth grade,” Yarber said. “I had friends on that [Serra] staff that were like, ‘That’s the one you need to be recruiting. Keep an eye on him.’”
Woods has already made an impact on the Rams, Yarber said.
“He sets an example for the room of how to be a pro,” Yarber said. “When you watch him prepare, he’s taking diligent notes, he’s asking very intelligent questions. He just knows how to prepare.
“He values the process over the prize. That’s what the really good ones do.”
Kupp, a third-round pick from Eastern Washington, sees a mentor in Woods.
“I’m just trying to soak up as much as I can and ask as many questions as I can,” Kupp said. “He’s a valuable source of knowledge and information for me.”
The Rams will conduct seven more OTA workouts and then hold a mandatory minicamp before breaking in mid-June. They will return for training camp in late July.
Woods is looking forward to the season and becoming a key component in McVay’s offense.
Last season, with McVay calling plays for the Redskins, Garcon and receiver DeSean Jackson each had at least 100 targets and amassed more than 1,000 yards receiving.
“They find ways to get receivers the ball and become a No. 1,” Woods said at his introductory news conference, “Or two No. 1s.”
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.