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Is Matthew Stafford’s arm at 100%? Seven questions Rams face in training camp

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford fakes a pass in front of Aaron Donald and Sean McVay.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, right fakes a pass in front of Aaron Donald (99) and coach Sean McVay during practice in June. Stafford hasn’t thrown a pass in offseason workouts ahead of training camp.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
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Days after winning the Super Bowl, Rams players stood on a stage during a post-parade rally and shouted their desire to “Run it Back” this season.

But slogans, regardless of how ebulliently they are proclaimed, don’t win Super Bowls.

No team has won consecutive titles since the New England Patriots in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

Rams players aim to become the first team in nearly two decades to achieve the feat.

“Everybody wants another one,” linebacker Justin Hollins said Saturday after arriving at a Newport Beach hotel for the start of training camp. “It’s football heaven. You want to stay in football heaven.”

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Rams coach Sean McVay is due a contract extension, but as training camp opens this weekend he’s not worried about a timetable to finish the deal.

In 2019, the season after they lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII, the Rams suffered a post-Super Bowl malaise. They finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the only time in Sean McVay’s five seasons as coach.

Can it be different now that they are approaching it as defending champion?

Since their first offseason meeting, McVay and his players have repeated like a mantra that last season is history and will have no impact on the upcoming season.

As they ready for their first training camp practice Sunday at UC Irvine — practices open to the public begin Friday — here are seven questions they will address in preparation for their Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills at SoFi Stadium.

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Is Matthew Stafford’s arm 100% healthy?

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford throws the ball during Super Bowl LVI against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford throws the ball during Super Bowl LVI against the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium in February.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

After leading the Rams to the Super Bowl title, Stafford signed an extension that includes $120 million in guarantees. He also received an injection in his right arm — and did not throw a pass during offseason team workouts.

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Stafford, 34, has said he would be ready for training camp, and McVay said Friday the 13-year veteran would be a full participant, with his workload monitored.

Last season, Stafford passed for 41 touchdowns, with 17 interceptions.

With a season of experience in McVay’s system, Stafford appears primed to improve on that performance and perhaps remain in the most valuable player conversation the entire season.

Rams players, coaches and team personnel received their Super Bowl LVI rings Thursday night in a private ceremony.

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Will the Rams add another running back before the opener?

Rams running back Cam Akers breaks a tackle against the Arizona Cardinals.
Rams running back Cam Akers breaks a tackle against the Arizona Cardinals during a divisional wild-card playoff game in January.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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Last season, Cam Akers remarkably returned from a pre-camp Achilles injury to play in the season-regular-season finale and the playoffs. Akers also was sidelined by injuries as a rookie in 2020.

Fourth-year pro Darrell Henderson’s durability has been an issue in each of his three NFL seasons.

So the Rams could be tempted to repeat what they did late in in the 2021 preseason when they traded for veteran running back Sony Michel. The move paid off as Michel — now with the Miami Dolphins — carried the offense during a pivotal stretch.

Rookie Kyren Williams showed promise in offseason workouts before suffering a foot injury that will force him to begin training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

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Can Allen Robinson and Bobby Wagner be stars?

Rams wide receiver Allen Robinson catches a pass during a team practice session in May.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The Rams traded receiver Robert Woods to the Tennessee Titans in a salary dump, and believe they potentially upgraded after signing Robinson.

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McVay has raved about Robinson’s effectiveness running short, midrange and deep routes. And the ninth-year pro is regarded as one of the NFL’s best receivers in contested-catch situations.

Training camp offers Robinson his first opportunity to catch passes from Stafford in a team setting with fellow receivers Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek and Tutu Atwell.

Wagner, 32, is a six-time All-Pro who won a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks. He will run the defense for coordinator Raheem Morris and mentor second-year pro Ernest Jones.

Rams star Aaron Donald spoke and offered advice to Simi Valley football players on Wednesday.

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Is Rob Havenstein capable of leading the offensive line?

Rams offensive tackle Rob Havenstein, right, runs through drills with offensive tackle Joe Noteboom.
Rams offensive tackle Rob Havenstein, right, runs through drills with offensive tackle Joe Noteboom at the team’s practice facility in June.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

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With Andrew Whitworth retired and gone to the broadcast booth, the 6-foot-8, 330-pound Havenstein, a seven-year veteran, is the most experienced lineman.

“We don’t need Rob Havenstein to be Andrew Whitworth,” McVay said. “We want Rob Havenstein to be Rob Havenstein, and he’s got a great capacity to be a leader.”

Havenstein will start at right tackle for a line projected to include left tackle Joe Noteboom, left guard David Edwards, center Brian Allen and, perhaps, rookie Logan Bruss at right guard.

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Which defensive backs will play alongside Jalen Ramsey?

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, center, watches from the sidelines with cornerback Troy Hill.
Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, center, watches from the sidelines with cornerback Troy Hill, right, during minicamp in June.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Ramsey is coming off shoulder surgery, so the three-time All-Pro will be limited.

Veteran Troy Hill is on track to start in his return to the Rams, second-year pro Robert Rochell has recovered from a chest injury and fourth-year pro David Long played well in the latter part of the 2021 season. But McVay does not play starters or other key players during preseason games. So young players will have plenty of opportunities to show they are worthy of more than special-teams roles.

Fourth-round pick Decobie Durant and sixth-round pick Derion Kendrick are players to watch.

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Jordan Fuller, Taylor Rapp, Nick Scott and Terrell Burgess are experienced safeties. Rookie Quentin Lake will start training camp on the PUP list.

Rams DL Bobby Brown III has been suspended for six games of the 2022 season after violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substances policy.

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Who replaces Johnny Hekker?

Carolina Panthers punter Johnny Hekker warms up during a minicamp practice in June.
(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

For the first time since 2012, someone other than Hekker, a four-time All-Pro, will be the Rams’ punter.

That scenario almost played out last season when Corey Bojorquez dominated during the preseason while Hekker was sidelined because of COVID-19. But the Rams ultimately kept Hekker, who now plays for the Carolina Panthers.

Riley Dixon, a seventh-year pro, played for the Denver Broncos in 2016 under Rams special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis. Dixon averaged 39.5 net yards per punt last season for the New York Giants.

The Rams signed Texas kicker/punter Cameron Dicker as an undrafted free agent.

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Which players need to be better?

Rams wide receiver Tutu Atwell makes a catch during practice in May.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Atwell, a second-round pick in 2021, is out to prove to that he learned from his injury-marred rookie season and from working closely with Kupp during the offseason. The 5-9, 165-pound Atwell will compete for roles as a kick returner and in the receiver rotation.

The free-agent departures of Von Miller and Obo Okoronkwo present outside linebackers Terrell Lewis and Chris Garrett with opportunities to rotate with Hollins.

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