After more than a month of answering questions about tendonitis in his right elbow, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is looking forward to showing he is fit when the Rams play the Buffalo Bills in Thursday night’s season opener at SoFi Stadium .
The 34-year-old Stafford is entering his 14th NFL season.
“I’m feeling great – I’m ready to play,” Stafford said on Sunday when asked about his elbow. “Can always be better. Can always try to feel 21 again. I will keep trying.”
Stafford and receiver Cooper Kupp remain offensive core pieces for the defending Super Bowl champion.
Still, there were changes to a unit that finished seventh in the NFL last season in scoring (27.1 points per game), ninth on offense (372.1 yards per game), fifth in passing (273.1 ypg) and 25th in rushing (99 ypg).
Coach Sean McVay is still the playmaker, but after Kevin O’Connell left to coach the Minnesota Vikings, Liam Coen returned to the team as offensive coordinator after a season in Kentucky. Receiver Allen Robinson reportedly replaces Robert Woods, who was traded to the Tennessee Titans. Joe Noteboom replaces retired left tackle Andrew Whitworth, and Coleman Shelton replaces right guard Austin Corbett, who signed with the Carolina Panthers.
Stafford had 41 touchdowns with 17 interceptions last season. The former Detroit Lions quarterback ended any doubt about his ability to win playoff games by leading the Rams in a postseason run that ended with a 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium culminated.
Stafford did this while playing through arm problems. He received an injection after the Super Bowl and Rams closed him for off-season practice and curtailed his workload during training camp.
Stafford seemed fine during training with the Cincinnati Bengals, blasting passes from all angles.
“You should always be aware of the pitch count, if you will,” McVay said Sunday when asked if he was concerned about managing Stafford’s arm condition during the season. “But … he throws the ball brilliantly, it feels good, everything I see reflects everything he says to me.”
After achieving the so-called triple crown last season, Kupp seems poised for an encore.
The reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year led the NFL in catches, yards receiving and touchdown catches. He was voted the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.
“There’s a lot of things that I think have a lot of room for improvement,” Kupp said.
Kupp, a sixth-year pro, pointed out the nuances of his position. Timing with Stafford on certain routes. Find angles as ball carriers and blockers.
Stafford says he spends more time with Kupp than any other receiver in his 13 previous NFL seasons.
“It’s just different in that he listens a lot,” Stafford said. “I’m just trying to hear myself talk about what I see, what I think about certain pieces. … We kind of bounce off each other and figure out how to try and make things work.
Robinson, a ninth-year pro, has eclipsed 1,000 yards three times in one season. The 6ft 2, 220lb Robinson offers Stafford a versatile target.
“He definitely gives us some creative ways to do things differently in some ways, and really taps into some of Matthew’s strengths, too,” said Coen.
With Van Jefferson recovering from knee surgery as a sophomore, McVay will rely on tight end Tyler Higbee and receivers Ben Skowronek and Tutu Atwell to fill the void.
McVay and Coen said that one of their goals is to improve rushing attack.
Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson are the primary running backs, with rookie Kyren Williams also available.
After showing his talent as a rookie in 2020, Akers was sidelined for most of last season with an Achilles injury. Henderson, a fourth-year pro, was productive when not injured.
The Rams signed Noteboom and center Brian Allen to new contracts after last season. They are part of a squad that also includes left guard David Edwards and experienced right tackle Rob Havenstein, who has been in the starting XI since 2015 and is in the final year of his contract.
Noteboom said he was willing to step in for Whitworth.
“I know what they want,” Noteboom said. “I know the system.”
The temperature at Thousand Oaks was 103 when the Rams began training. McVay said the team increased the number of drink breaks. … The Rams still have a locker with Odell Beckham Jr.’s name in their locker room. Beckham remains a free agent.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-09-04/matthew-stafford-rams-cooper-kupp-offense-nfl Matthew Stafford out to prove elbow won’t hamper him or Rams