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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IV: RT Rob Havenstein

Veteran right tackle Rob Havenstein is entering his 10th NFL season as the starting right tackle for the LA Rams. And at the age of 32 years old, the team has to anticipate a succession plan for the venerable veteran sooner or later. While Havenstein has been one of the most dependable of players on the Rams roster, missing just five games in the past three seasons, missing three games in 2023 due to injury combined with an age of 32 years old begins to trigger those algorithms that predict more missed games in 2024.

Right or wrong, the front office has to have some concept of who fills in for the team if Havenstein cannot suit up. But does the team have a clear backup for the right tackle role? While it's probably unfair to list Havenstein in the category of fragile, he does have several factors working against him. Due to the unpredictable nature of injuries, the impact is sudden and irrevocable.

Havenstein is 32 years old, and plays one of the most physically demand roles on an NFL team in that he starts at right tackle. He has started 130 games in his nine season career. That is not too alarming out of a possible 147 games, as his career availability has run at a robust 88 percent. But he did suffer a number of injuries in 2023, injuries that forced him to miss some games. If you track his availability in 2023, he was up and atom just 82 percent of the time.

Is that just one data point that will reverse course in 2024? Or has Havenstein, as so many veterans who compete in professional football beyond the age of 30 years old, face longer recoveries times for even minor injuries?

There is no debate over the fact that Havenstein is the new senior statesman and spokesperson for the LA Rams offensive line. He is the guy who gives the signal to the sidelines to continue running the football when the plays are working. And he was the offensive lineman who was quoted before the offseason as lobbying for the team to re-sign right guard Kevin Dotson.

The question is, how long can Rob Havenstein continue to start week in and week out for this team? He stumbled a bit in 2023. Were those injuries simply an anomaly? Or are they more than that, a klaxon to alert the team to have a viable backup ready to go just in case in 2024?