Even without preseason, Matthew Stafford will keep Rams offense running, if they can
During 12 years with the Detroit Lions, Matthew Stafford prepped for regular-season games by playing during the preseason.
In 2017 he played in three games. In 2018 two, and in 2019 one.
But Stafford, in his first season with the Rams, will not run Sean McVay’s offense in a game situation until the Sept. 12 opener against the Chicago Bears on “Sunday Night Football.”
McVay, in a hedge against possible injuries, does not play starters or other key players during the preseason.
Stafford, 33, is confident he will have command of the offense for the opener, and he anticipates growth throughout the season.
Hours before the Rams kicked off against the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium, they placed punters Johnny Hekker and Corey Bojorquez on the reserve COVID-19 list.
“I hope I’m getting better in this offense for five, seven, 10 years, you know,” Stafford said Monday after practice. “I hope that my first game on Sept. 12 is not my best game as a Ram.
“You know I’d love to have a great one, but I hope I get better and better in this offense, with all these guys, with this team as it goes.”
Stafford, the top pick in the 2009 NFL draft, came to the Rams in a trade for quarterback Jared Goff and two first-round draft picks. Stafford passed for 282 touchdowns, with 144 interceptions, for the Lions.
“You’ve looked at it, kind of across the league, when guys change spots there’s some really highs, there’s some lows, there’s some things that we’re just going to have battle through and keep working,” he said, adding, “There’s going to be some great games, there’s going to be some games where we need to learn from ‘em and all that, but I’m going to do everything I can to be ready to play pretty darn good.”
For Stafford to be at his best, the Rams will need an effective rushing attack.
That became a giant question mark on the eve of training camp after second-year pro Cam Akers suffered a season-ending Achilles injury.
‘I’ve never been fired in my life’: Jared Goff and Anthony Lynn experienced simultaneous failure in L.A. They’re looking for a reboot with the Lions.
And it remains so.
Darrell Henderson is scheduled to start, but durability questions surround the third-year pro. Each of Henderson’s first two seasons ended prematurely because of ankle injuries that required surgery. On Monday, he left practice because of a thumb sprain, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
Xavier Jones and rookie Jake Funk are the backups for now. When asked if the Rams would explore the availability of other veteran backs, McVay indicated the Rams were considering all options.
“We’re still in the process of figuring all that out,” he said. “We got a little bit of time.”
The Rams play their preseason finale Saturday at the Denver Broncos.
On Monday, the Rams waived quarterback Devlin Hodges, running back/kick returner Raymond Calais and defensive back Paris Ford ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to trim the roster to 80 players. Rosters will be cut to 53 players by Aug. 31.
Calais suffered a foot injury Saturday during the Rams’ 17-16 defeat to the Las Vegas Raiders. He could return to the team and be placed on injured reserve.
Bryce Perkins, who played the entire game against the Raiders, will start at quarterback against the Broncos. John Wolford will be in uniform but only as an emergency back-up.
Retired star Philip Rivers has not ruled out a return to the NFL, but his family is living large as he coaches high school football in Alabama.
Rams starters will participate in a scrimmage before the season. McVay expects a more spirited effort than what he saw Monday.
“It felt a little flat,” he said, when asked why he stopped practice a few times. “We can’t afford to have that, the sense of urgency’s got to go up.
“We’re going to be here before we know it on Sept. 12. … Expect to have a little bit more of a sense of urgency from our group.”
Receiver DeSean Jackson did not practice because of what McVay described as a “veteran rest day.” Jackson, 34, played a combined eight games the last two seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles because of injuries. “We’re just making sure we’ve got him kind of on a good schedule where want to get him up to speed as quickly as possible, as far as just making sure he’s peaking on the 12th,” McVay said. ... Edge rusher Leonard Floyd, who sat out several workouts last week because of an ankle injury, returned to practice. ... Stafford combined with receiver Van Jefferson for several long gains during team drills, including one after a defensive lineman jumped offside. ... Safety Jordan Fuller broke up a possible touchdown pass in the end zone.
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