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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I: QB Matthew Stafford

It's impossible to look away from veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford when the subject becomes NFL player fragility. Stafford is 36 years old, and is entering his 16th NFL season. By rights, he could be the poster child of NFL durability and endurance. After all, he is the same guy who suffered a shoulder separation in an NFL game, and returned to the football field to throw the game winning touchdown pass.

Well, that was then, this is now.

Now, the venerable veteran has had the opportunity to suit up for 34 possible football games, and only stepped onto the field for 24 of them. Yes, in one game the Rams held all starters off the field to give them meaningful rest in Week 18 before competing in the Wild Card Round of the 2024 NFL Playoffs. But Stafford has suffered so many injuries over the course of his lengthy NFL career that even suffering a minor injury could be a big deal.

Stafford had a bit of a Renaissance in 2023, a rejuvenated form in the pocket that earned him Pro Bowl honors for only the second time in his career. But that was no accident nor random coincidence. The team invested heavily in the offensive line, and the play calls resulted in the offense running the football more often than at any other time since hiring Sean McVay as Head Coach in 2017.

Perhaps even more significant is the fact that the team has doubled down on the same steps that were taken to emphasize running the football in 2023. The team has reinvested in the offensive line, in offensive skill players who can block admirably, and in enhancing the depth at the running back position to ensure that a capable starting running back is available each and every week.

The team is trying every trick known to keep veteran QB Matthew Stafford healthy and upright. The reason is simple. He can no longer take a beating in the pocket like he could earlier in his career.