Matthew Stafford should return for Rams-Saints, but there’s a catch: Receiver shortage
After a one-game absence, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is on track to return.
Stafford remains in concussion protocol but is expected to be cleared to play against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in New Orleans, coach Sean McVay said Wednesday.
Stafford has been in the protocol since Nov. 8, two days after he was sacked four times in the Rams’ defeat by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla.
John Wolford started in place of Stafford in last Sunday’s defeat by the Arizona Cardinals at SoFi Stadium, which extended the Rams’ losing streak to three games and dropped their record to 3-6.
Stafford, 34, was a full participant in practice Wednesday. McVay said he anticipated the 14th-year pro would be cleared by Friday, and that Stafford was eager to play in a game that will be played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Star receiver Cooper Kupp, a bright spot for the struggling Rams this season, will have ankle surgery and will be placed on injured reserve.
Stafford, who has passed for eight touchdowns, with eight interceptions, was not made available to reporters because he has not been cleared. But Rams players said they were looking forward to playing with him against the Saints (3-7).
“We know how great of a competitor Matthew Stafford is, and how much he wants to play and be out there with us,” receiver Van Jefferson said. “So just to get him back is great.”
Stafford practiced without star receiver Cooper Kupp on the field.
Kupp, the reigning NFL offensive player of the year, had surgery Wednesday for an ankle injury suffered against the Cardinals. The Rams on Wednesday placed Kupp on injured reserve. He will be sidelined for at least four games.
Kupp ranks second in the NFL with 75 catches for 812 yards and six touchdowns. He also rushed for a touchdown. His absence puts the onus on receivers Allen Robinson, Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek, Brandon Powell, Tutu Atwell and Lance McCutcheon.
Kupp has been targeted 98 times, only 12 fewer than the combined targets for those six receivers. Skowronek said they would be prepared to step up.
“We’ve got to do more,” said Skowronek, who has 26 catches for 245 yards, and has rushed for a touchdown.
Robinson, a ninth-year pro in his first season with Rams, started slow but his production has increased in the last few games. He has 29 catches for 292 yards and two touchdowns.
Robinson said Rams receivers must respond.
“This isn’t an easy situation or a part of the season to be in,” Robinson said. “But at the same time, we’ve got to make sure we’re hyper-focused and everybody is locked in so we can try to swing this thing and see how it shakes out.”
Atwell, a second-round draft pick in 2021, has been inactive the last two games. He has only one catch.
The Times’ Sam Farmer analyzes each matchup and predicts the winners in NFL Week 11. The Vikings will beat the Cowboys while the Rams and Chargers will lose.
McCutcheon, a rookie, played on offense for the first time against the Cardinals. He was not targeted but said the experience enabled him to get acclimated and that he would be prepared for when passes come his way.
“Whatever role is presented to me, I’m going to make the most of that and learn from that,” he said.
Along with a reconfigured receiver corps, if Stafford returns Sunday he will be operating behind an offensive line that will be in its 10th iteration of the season.
Left guard David Edwards, who was sidelined for four games because of a concussion, was a full participant Wednesday. Center Brian Allen did not practice because of a thumb injury.
Coleman Shelton, who returned last week from an ankle injury and started at left guard, could play center if Allen is sidelined against the Saints.
Wolford (neck), defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson (illness) and linebacker Travin Howard (hip) did not practice, and defensive lineman Greg Gaines (elbow) was limited, according to the Rams injury report. ... Saints coach Dennis Allen announced Andy Dalton would start at quarterback on Sunday. ... The Rams practiced in high winds, which has been a bane to McVay since he was hired in 2017. McVay said an indoor facility would be part of the Rams’ future headquarters in Woodland Hills.
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