NFL reader Q&A: Cooper Kupp, Chargers’ defense, Rams schedule

Have the Rams and Chargers done enough to fill depth roles and improve their weak spots? Will we see a repeat of Cooper Kupp’s MVP production? Questions have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Why do so many players have a phenomenal record-breaking year but then the following year have a less-than-stellar performance? Is Cooper Kupp destined to be another stat or can he come close to another amazing year?

Nimish Patel, Santa Monica

Gary Klein: The word “phenomenal” explains most of the reason. To do something extraordinary or remarkable is difficult. To do it more than once …

But unless he’s injured, don’t expect Cooper Kupp to experience a huge drop in production.

He will almost certainly remain quarterback Matthew Stafford’s favorite target. And the addition of talented receiver Allen Robinson might open some new avenues of opportunity for Kupp.

Will Kupp again lead the NFL in catches, yards receiving and touchdown catches?

Hard to predict. No player has ever done that two years in a row. If Kupp repeats, that would rank as phenomenal.

Do the Chargers finally have a decent interior defensive line? Every year we hear that either through the draft or free agency, they cured the problem. Did they finally get it right?

Tom Richards, Delray Beach, Fla.

Jeff Miller: They look much better to open this season, much deeper and with more impactful players. But, you know how this goes, we’ll see when the games actually start. One thing to consider is Jerry Tillery’s status. Last year, he played nearly 74% of the defensive snaps, fourth most on the team. As long as everyone’s healthy, Tillery likely will play noticeably less this year because of the improved depth. The real answer to this question won’t be known until the inevitable injuries hit and the D-line is stressed a bit.

I believe that the reigning Super Bowl champions get the hardest schedule. How will that impact the Rams’ chance to repeat?

Bob Oh, Sylmar

Klein: There is a reason no team has repeated as Super Bowl champion since the 2004 season, and the schedule the defending champion plays probably is one of the factors.

But remember: Because of the NFL’s competitive balance, and the unpredictability of injuries and other issues, what looks tough in the spring when the schedule comes out, and in September when the season begins, is not always how it plays out.

For example, last season the Rams played a late-season game against the Baltimore Ravens. When the schedule came out, that looked like a tough matchup against quarterback Lamar Jackson. But by the time the Rams played at Baltimore, Jackson was sidelined because of an injury.

This season, the Rams have what looks to be a tough NFC West matchup on the road against the Arizona Cardinals. But Cardinals star receiver DeAndre Hopkins is suspended for the first six games, so he will not play in that game against the Rams.

The point is, there are a lot of variables that will determine just how tough the schedule really was. We won’t know that until the end of the season.

What type of trade value would Bryce Perkins command? Or do you think teams will call the bluff and wait for a release? With bodies actually needed at other positions, carrying three QBs this year seems wasteful.

George Metalsky, Redondo Beach

Klein: UPDATE: Perkins, for the second season in a row, made the initial roster that was announced Tuesday.

Perkins’ résumé consists of preseason performances, so another team is not likely to offer anything but a late-round draft pick if they were interested in adding him to the roster.

The more probable scenario would have been to wait for his release. But the Rams, for the second year in a row, did not want to risk exposing him to waivers. My sense is the Rams will eventually move him to the practice squad where he can continue to compete to possibly move ahead of John Wolford.

And the Rams do the math before they make these decisions. It’s not regarded as wasteful because, with the ability to protect and move practice squad players to the roster, teams are really dealing with nearly 70 players, not 53.

Is the Chargers’ defensive depth improved? The second team looked overmatched against the Saints.

George Morton, San Diego

Miller: The Chargers started five and maybe six guys against New Orleans who won’t be on the team to open the season. So there’s that. There’s also the fact the Saints began the game with several of their starters, including quarterback Jameis Winston and running back Alvin Kamara. The shorter answer is, yes, the Chargers’ defensive depth is much improved, especially up front where they had so many issues last season. They’re also significantly deeper in the middle.

There is a short turnaround in the first two games for the Chargers. How are they planning to manage being ready to compete in these important games?

George Morton, San Diego

Miller: The worst part about the schedule for the Chargers is those first two games are AFC West contests. The opener against the Raiders figures to be very emotional after the teams’ Week 18 game last year in Las Vegas. Turning around to immediately play the Chiefs in KC will be extremely difficult. They’ll start recovery from the Raider game immediately after it ends before even leaving SoFi Stadium. The practices in between will be mostly at walkthrough pace. The NFL did not do the Chargers any favors to open the season.

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