Puka Nacua Continues To Defeat All Odds
Puka Nacua came within two yards of tying Ja'Marr Chase's record for the most yards through a player's first seven NFL games with 154 additional yards in Sunday's defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers. After Chase's 754 yards in 2021, the L.A. Rams fifth-round rookie now has 752 yards in seven games, which is the second-most ever to start a career. Even though they lost, Cooper Kupp's comeback did not have a detrimental effect on Puka, as seen in Week 7:
Not at all.
Against the Steelers, Matthew Stafford targeted Puka twelve times; the rookie hauled in eight passes for 154 yards. He now trails only Chase's record-breaking pace in 2021 after surpassing both Anquan Boldwin (621 yards in 2003) and Odell Beckham Jr. (609 yards in 2014). During the first seven games of 1996, Terry Glenn was targeted 78 times, while Puka has already been targeted more than any other player in history (82 times through seven games).
Puka has now accumulated at least 140 yards in three of his professional games. That is unique. OBJ, Chase, and Justin Jefferson are the only three players in NFL history to have two 140-yard games in their first seven outings.
While Puka was available with the fifth and final choice in the draft, all of those players were first round selections.
To equal Billy Howton for the second-most 140+ yard games in a rookie season—four—Puka needs one more 140-yard performance. Howton played those four games in 1952; Bill Groman played five in 1960; and O.B. Johnson played five in 2014.
This season, Puka has ten games remaining.
Puka Nacua is just 248 yards away from becoming the 30th rookie in NFL history to achieve 1,000 yards with his current total of 752 yards. He is more than halfway to breaking Groman's record of 1,473 yards as an NFL rookie, which he accomplished in just 14 games. Two years ago, in 17 games, Chase had 1,455 yards.
Nacua, though, is even closer to becoming a legend among rookies selected outside of the first round.
Harlon Hill in 1954 and Marques Colston in 2006 are the only two players in NFL history to have 1,000 yards as rookies after being picked outside of the top 100. Colston was selected from Hofstra in the seventh round.
If Puka stays healthy, he will need fewer than 400 yards to break the record for receiving yards by a rookie selected outside of the top 100. That works out to less than 40 yards per game. So far, he's averaging over 100 yards per game, and Stafford continued to trust Puka in crucial situations even with Kupp's return (he had 29 yards on seven targets).
For Puka Nacua, nothing about "the moment" has been too significant.