Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford spoke Wednesday with genuine optimism, not the manufactured variety so prevalent during the first six weeks of the Rams’ season.
The coach and quarterback had reason to be positive: After navigating through seemingly endless injuries, the Rams will be closer to full strength Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
Receiver Van Jefferson, center Brian Allen and cornerback Troy Hill practiced Wednesday, and all are expected to play in the pivotal NFC West game at SoFi Stadium.
Jefferson had not practiced since training camp, when he had surgery on his left knee for the second time in six months.
Allen suffered a knee injury in the season-opening defeat by the Buffalo Bills that required surgery. He has been limited in practice the last few weeks.
Hill suffered a groin injury in the second game against the Atlanta Falcons and has been on injured reserve with Jefferson.
The Rams said they would not make Jefferson, Hill, rookie running back Kyren Williams and inside linebacker Travin Howard available to reporters until they are officially activated from injured reserve to the roster. For Jefferson and Hill, that might not happen until the day before the game.
In a best-case scenario for the Rams, Allen will stabilize an injury-ravaged line and Jefferson will bolster the receiving corps.
“Those are two big boosts to our offense,” McVay said.
The Rams could use more.
They are averaging 17.3 points a game, which ranks 29th among 32 teams. They are 11th in passing (239.3 yards per game) and 31st in rushing (70.5 ypg).
Jefferson, a third-year pro, caught 50 passes last season, six for touchdowns. He averaged 16 yards per catch.
“He’s a guy, in my mind, that can do it all,” Stafford said, adding, “The more you can have of those guys the better.”
Jefferson’s presence is expected to help receivers Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson.
Kupp has 56 catches, four for touchdowns. Robinson broke out in the Rams’ victory over the Carolina Panthers, catching five passes for 63 yards, including a touchdown.
Jefferson will force opposing defensive coordinators to plan for more from the Rams, Robinson said.
“Whenever you add somebody like that to the mix, they have to respect that,” Robinson said. “You definitely get a benefit. … We’ll see on Sunday, but definitely can expect some kind of acknowledgement to somebody like that being back in the lineup.”
Allen returns to an offensive line that features different starters at every position except right tackle, where right tackle Rob Havenstein has remained injury-free.
Left tackle Alaric Jackson, left guard Bobby Evans and right guard Oday Aboushi replaced injured starters.
“One of the things you can’t take for granted is just his ability to communicate,” Stafford said of Allen. “That experience is really valuable in this league and in this offense, and he’s got the most of it for our guys up front.”
Allen has had several knee injuries since the Rams selected him in the fourth round of the 2018 draft. He said the latest surfaced last spring when he felt “loose bodies.” The day before the game against the Bills, he said he had fluid drained from his knee.
“Kind of an uncomfortable feeling going out there with one-and-a-half legs,” said Allen, who during the offseason signed an extension that includes $8 million in guarantees.
Allen said it was difficult to watch teammates struggle as injuries suffered by linemen mounted.
“It’s like watching your brother get beat up and you can’t get in there for the sucker punch,” he said.
Allen is expected to help alleviate some of the pressure from the 49ers’ dynamic pass rush, which has generated 24 sacks, second most in the league.
He also could help a rushing attack that ranks second to last, averaging 70.5 yards per game.
But the running back situation remains a problem.
The Rams continue to seek a trade for estranged Cam Akers. The third-year pro will not practice with the team this week and will not play Sunday “as we’re continuing to try and get some clarity to that situation,” McVay said.
Running back Darrell Henderson also was absent from practice because of illness, according to the Rams injury report.
Williams practiced for the first time since suffering an ankle injury while covering a kickoff in the season opener. But McVay said he did not expect Williams to be ready to play Sunday.
“He represents a lot of the things that you want from Rams types of players, and kinds of guys that we want in this building,” McVay said.
Rookie safety Quentin Lake, a sixth-round draft pick from UCLA, practiced for the first time since being put on the physically unable to perform list because of a lower leg issue at the start of training camp.