IRVINE, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Rams opened 2022 NFL training camp on Sunday at University of California-Irvine. Here's a closer look at a few storylines:
The biggest question: When will quarterback Matthew Stafford throw? Stafford didn't throw during the offseason after he received an injection in his right elbow for an injury he dealt with last season, but said he will "definitely" be ready during training camp. But when will that be? On the last day of minicamp, Stafford said he still had "a lot of work to do physically just to get ready to go" and feels like he's entering training camp "in peak position to go out there and play at a high level." The Rams' coaching staff isn't worried about Stafford's mastery of the offense and there's been dialogue about making sure Stafford is ready to go during camp.
Training camp is a success if ... Stafford is 100% healthy for Week 1: Stafford proved himself in Sean McVay's offense last season and the head coach said during the spring workout that Stafford "now has such ownership" of it going into his second year in L.A. While the Rams added wide receiver Allen Robinson II in free agency, so much of the offense already has familiarity with Stafford. Although Stafford didn't throw during minicamp, McVay praised the way the quarterback was able to work during the "above-the-neck emphasis drills," and said Stafford was "coaching guys up" when he was watching drills from the sidelines.
Obviously most NFL teams rely on the health of their starting quarterback, but given Stafford's elbow injury, the most important thing for the Rams is to finish training camp with Stafford at 100%.
The player with the most to prove: Wide receiver Van Jefferson. As Odell Beckham Jr. recovers from a torn ACL, there's been a thought that the wide receiver could re-sign with the Rams during the season if all goes well with his rehab. But while the Rams have the necessary cap space (around $7.5 million, according to Over the Cap), a strong start to the season from Jefferson could diminish the need to bring back Beckham.
Jefferson took a big step forward in his second season, finishing with 50 catches for 802 yards and six touchdowns, and that was as Los Angeles' third receiving option for much of the season. Beckham was crucial to the Rams' Super Bowl run and victory -- despite the injury -- but Jefferson will likely have the chance to prove he can be a strong No. 2 or 3 receiver in 2022.
Most impactful offseason addition: Linebacker Bobby Wagner. The Rams lost Von Miller in free agency, and although Wagner is not a direct replacement, he brings a great deal of veteran leadership to the Rams' defense. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said "you can't help" but learn from the veteran linebacker when you're around him, and saw during the spring how beneficial that was to other players at the position, especially 2021 third-round pick Ernest Jones. Morris said Wagner "slows the game down for everybody around him" and said Wagner is still a guy who can "go out there all three downs and play every single snap of the season."
Camp prediction: Tutu Atwell ends camp as No. 3 receiver. Both Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp pointed out Atwell's improvement during the spring. Atwell, the Rams' second-round pick in 2021, played 10 offensive snaps last season but had a role on special teams before injuring his shoulder and being placed on injured reserve in November. The Rams have a strong trio of Kupp, Robinson and Jefferson, but a solid camp from Atwell will give him a bigger opportunity entering the regular season.