After a Super Bowl appearance in 2018, the Rams front office believes they remain in contention to make another deep playoff, maybe even Super Bowl, run. And they hope that Stafford, in his 13th season, is the quarterback to lead them.
Throughout his first L.A. training camp, Stafford ingratiated himself with teammates with his leadership and ability to distribute the ball.
"I'm just watching him, the way he works, the balls he's throwing and getting it to these receivers," three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald said. "I ain't never see it done like that."
As expectations mount for the 33-year-old Stafford ahead of a Week 1 opener against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 12th, here's a look at Stafford's supporting cast on offense.
The offensive line played a quick round of musical chairs midway through camp.
At the outset, it appeared fourth-year pro Austin Corbett won the starting job at center and that third-year pro Bobby Evans would play right guard. But after a joint practice against the Dallas Cowboys 10 practices through camp, Corbett shifted to right guard, fourth-year pro Brian Allen took over at center and Evans became the odd man ut.
"Brian has done a great job and Austin is doing a great job moving back to guard," Stafford said. "It has been pretty seamless."
A fourth-round pick in 2018, Allen started nine games at center as a second-year pro before he underwent season-ending knee surgery. He did not play last season and is now entering the final season of his rookie contract.
"He's a really good communicator, a smart guy," Stafford said. "He played center before for a long time. It has been good to work with him."
If Allen proves stable, the line could be in good shape. Last season, with Austin Blythe at center (who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency), the line ranked seventh in the NFL with a pass-block win rate of 62.6 percent.
Stafford's blind side will be protected by left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who is entering his 16th season and turns 40 in December. Seventh-year pro Rob Havenstein returns at right tackle and third-year man David Edwards returns to left guard.
Depth on the interior of the line could be a concern, but fourth-year pro Joe Noteboom, who is also entering the final season of his rookie contract, proved last season he is capable of stepping in at tackle if needed.
A sixth-year pro, Tyler Higbee returns for his fifth year as a starter. After catching 44 passes for 521 yards and five touchdowns while playing through several injuries last season, Higbee appeared healthy in camp while establishing a connection with Stafford.
"He's been a productive player for such a long time," McVay said. "I think he's feeling good. He really battled through a lot of different things last year that that's really a credit to his toughness and his resilience."
Johnny Mundt, an undrafted free agent from Oregon in 2017, has moved into the backup role after playing as a third-string tight end mostly utilized as a blocker. In four seasons, Mundt has caught nine passes for 84 yards.
"Johnny Mundt I think is ready to take on a bigger role," McVay said. "And then really guys are working to establish themselves behind those two."
Fourth-round pick Jacob Harris flashed throughout the offseason program, but rookies have had difficulty breaking into McVay's offense the past few seasons and Harris doesn't appear to be bound for large role.
A fourth-round pick in 2020, Brycen Hopkins has yet to break into the conversation in regard to players who could meaningfully contribute.
Losing Cam Akers to a season-ending right Achilles tear before training camp was a blow, as last year's second-round pick was expected to excel.
But third-year pro Darrell Henderson Jr. rushed for 624 yards and five touchdowns last season and has proven to be an effective back when healthy, plus the Rams added fourth-year pro Sony Michel, a former first-round pick, via a trade with the New England Patriots in exchange for a 2022 sixth-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round selection. Michel provides a necessary reinforcement and his downhill style fits with Henderson's shiftiness and pass-catching ability.
"He's a nice complement to what we already have," McVay explained about Michel, "in terms of when you look at the confidence that we have in Darrell Henderson and what he's been able to do when he's been available for us."
Despite the addition of Michel, McVay said rookie seventh-round pick Jake Funk remained in the plan, citing his "great maturity for a rookie player."
The offense lacked a deep threat in 2020, shrinking its ability to utilize the entire field.
The Rams signed DeSean Jackson in free agency to stretch the defense and that's exactly what he's done in camp, as he connected daily with Stafford on deep passes. The challenge will be keeping Jackson healthy after he missed the majority of the past two seasons because of various injuries. The Rams have implemented a cautious training plan in an attempt to keep the 14th-year pro available.
"Speed guy, at 34 years old, 35, however [old]," McVay said when asked for reasoning behind recently resting the 34-year-old Jackson at practice. "It's amazing the way he's able to still run. He knows his body really well."
Robert Woods' and Cooper Kupp's chemistry with Stafford appears to be in midseason form and the two are bound to be his go-to targets. Van Jefferson's connection with Stafford steadily improved and the second-year pro appears on track for a significant increase in production from his rookie season.
"Every time we step out on the field, he's trying to be better," Stafford said about Jefferson, who caught 19 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown last season. "I'm trying to be better with him, with all the guys. We're just trying to maximize our opportunities. That's what he has to do and what he continues to do."
Second-round pick Tutu Atwell could be thrust into action if Jackson is not available, though based on the preseason it appears the rookie's impact will be mostly on special teams as a returner.