Fragility of 5 Rams veterans can open door for backups to earn starting roles

Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams / Harry How/GettyImages
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OT Warren McClendon

The LA Rams selected former Georgia offensive tackle Warren McClendon with the 179th overall pick in Round 5 of the 2023 NFL Draft. At the time he was selected, McClendon was projected to be an early Day 3 prospect on some draft boards. He is a robust offensive lineman who was arriving a bit raw in the NFL, but one who was blessed with the right foundation to succeed in the pros.

McClendon did not get much live action in his rookie season. When Rob Havenstein was out due to injury, the team turned to swing-tackle Joe Noteboom to handle the job. But McClendon did see live offensive snaps twice in 2023. He finished out the Week 5 contest for Havenstein, and then returned in the second half of Week 18. Keep in mind that the Rams came back to win in Week 18 against the San Francisco 49ers.

player. NFL Draft profile. University of Georgia. Offensive tackle. OT Waren McClendon (#6). NFL Draft Buzz. Warren McClendon. 174. 51. Warren McClendon

McClendon stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 317 pounds. He has had a full year of coaching by the team, and enters his second year. By all rights, it's pretty much now or never for his ability to compete at the professional level. If Havenstein needs to be taken out of a game in 2024, I look for backup OT Warren McClendon to be tapped to take over. And I expect that he will do an excellent job.

WR Jordan Whittington

While the selection of former Texas WR Jordan Whittington in Round 6 of the 2024 NFL Draft may not pique your enthusiasm into his potential upside, the same could be said about the Rams selection of former BYU WR Puka Nacua in his rookie debut for the offense las season. When it comes to the Rams roster, it's very wise not to judge the player from their selection in the NFL Draft.

Whittington is exactly the type of receiver that the Rams love to have on the roster. Because he excels as so many tasks assigned to a wide receiver on this team, he arrives with a fully developed and instant fit of working well in this offense. But he was not a featured receiver in the Texas Longhorns offense, so his proficiency to catch passes and bang out yards after the catch did not stand out to the casual observer.

That all works out to the team getting a great fit at a great price.

Some may not see Whittington as a rookie who can compete in the NFL, and that's just fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, no matter how far off the mark that opinion may stray. At 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds, Whittington is ideally sized and prepared to succeed and perhaps even flourish in this offense. He already excels at blocking, running crisp routes, and putting up tough yards after the catch. He simply needs opportunities and targets.

As always, thanks for reading.