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Matthew Stafford can’t pass on complimenting Rams’ versatile receiving corps

Rams head coach Sean McVay speaks with quarterback Matthew Stafford during a minicamp practice in Thousand Oaks.
(Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

He broadened his knowledge of coach Sean McVay’s offense. Timing with receivers and other skill players began to come together. Teammates now have a feel for their new leader.

But Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford said Wednesday that when he arrived in Southern California for offseason workouts — after 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions — he did so without specific expectations about how the first phase of his transition would unfold.

“I just showed up here, tried to be myself every single day, know I was going to make mistakes, try to get better along the way,” Stafford told reporters after the team’s penultimate minicamp workout, “and then I’ll try to do that for as long as I’m in this uniform.”

Stafford, acquired in a January trade for quarterback Jared Goff and two first-round draft picks, will practice in front of Rams fans Thursday at SoFi Stadium. Stafford, 33, will use the final workout to familiarize himself with sight lines, the scoreboard and play clocks in the $5-billion Inglewood stadium.

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“All that kind of stuff you’ve got to get used to at a home stadium,” he said during a videoconference.

After Thursday’s workout, the Rams will break for summer and reconvene for training camp in late July. Stafford said he would continue to work with teammates during player-organized throwing sessions.

DeSean Jackson has been in a Sean McVay offense before, so once he gets acclimated with quarterback Matthew Stafford he is certain the Rams offense is going to be great.

Trying to get in sync as much as we possibly can be heading into training camp,” Stafford said. “Trying to really just dive in and make sure that when we come back, I’m ready to lead this thing and go.”

Receivers Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, DeSean Jackson, Van Jefferson and rookie Tutu Atwell will be among Stafford’s principal targets in an offense that is expected to approach or surpass production that characterized the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

After two weeks of organized-team activities and the minicamp, Stafford was impressed.

“We’ve got a lot of talented guys in that group,” he said. “Some veteran guys that know what they’re doing and some young guys that are learning quickly as well.”

Woods, a ninth-year pro, is a “proven player,” Stafford said.

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“He does a great job of slash running after he catches the football,” Stafford said, “He’s really smooth in and out of his breaks.”

Rams receiver Cooper Kupp said he suffered a “de-gloving injury” last season, called a Morel-Lavalle’e lesion, in which skin and tissue separate from underlying tissue.

Kupp, entering his fifth NFL season, caught Stafford’s attention with his understanding of defenses.

“It’s something, as a quarterback, that is a lot of fun to have, a guy out there you know is thinking and seeing the game the same way that you are,” Stafford said.

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Jackson, 34, shows no sign of slowing down after 13 seasons, the last two in Philadelphia marred by injuries.

“He still has the long speed that I see,” Stafford said. “He’s running great.”

Rams wide receiver DeSean Jackson catches a pass during practice in Thousand Oaks.
Veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson catches a pass during Rams practice in Thousand Oaks. He still has top-flight speed, said quarterback Matthew Stafford.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Stafford said Jefferson, a second-year pro, has size to create mismatches and speed to separate from defenders. The speedy Atwell catches the ball away from his body well.

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Jefferson, 24, first met Stafford in 2009. Stafford was selected No. 1 overall in the draft by the Lions, who employed his father, Shawn Jefferson, as a receivers coach.

“He remembered me from being a little kid,” Jefferson said, adding that it was “ironic” their paths crossed again.

Jefferson said Stafford and the receivers were getting more comfortable.

Rams defensive players also have welcomed the opportunity to be tested by Stafford.

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“Very experienced, very seasoned, so he knows how to manipulate safeties’ eyes — all that stuff,” third-year safety Taylor Rapp said, adding that Rams defensive backs are “always trying to compete against the best.

“To be able compete against him in practice, and all of training camp, that’s something that we’re looking forward to.”

When training camp opens at UC Irvine, Stafford will begin preparing for a season that marks a new beginning. Stafford led the Lions to the playoffs three times but never won a postseason game.

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Now he will lead a team that is expected to contend for a berth in the Super Bowl, which will be played at SoFi Stadium.

Stafford is looking forward to the next phase of his career.

“I know I have a big challenge in front of me, to make sure that I’m leading this team as best as I possibly can,” he said. “All they want from me is to play at a high level and do things the right way, so that’s what I’m going to try and do.”


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