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Who will fill WR3 role for Los Angeles Rams, quarterback Matthew Stafford?

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Los Angeles Rams receiver Robert Woods flashed a big smile when he realized the question being asked of him during an offseason program videoconference with reporters.

If Woods runs a route and is open but doesn’t get the ball from Matthew Stafford, will he return to the huddle and let his quarterback know to look for him next time?

“Of course,” said Woods, chuckling. “I always let the quarterback know I was open. You got to stay in his ear and be a reminder.”

In his 13th NFL season but first in L.A., Stafford is likely to have no shortage of playmakers chirping at him when the season opens on Sept. 13 against the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football. The Rams return receivers Woods, Cooper Kupp and second-year pro Van Jefferson. Over a two-month span during the offseason, they also signed veteran DeSean Jackson to a one-year, $4.5 million free agent contract. then selected Louisville’s Tutu Atwell in the second round of the NFL draft.

Stafford also will have tight end Tyler Higbee and running back Cam Akers at his disposal.

“The best thing I can tell you is that’s not my decision,” Jackson said, laughing, when asked if there were enough footballs to go around. “I leave that for Sean McVay and for Matthew Stafford.”

Woods earned a four-year extension worth up to $68 million and Kupp a three-year extension worth up to $48 million before last season. After four seasons playing under Rams coach Sean McVay, both are firmly established in the offense and anticipated to resume familiar roles this season.

Less established is the third receiver spot, filled last season by Josh Reynolds, who departed for the Tennessee Titans in free agency.

Rams general manager Les Snead and McVay hardly kept it a secret they would pursuit a playmaker this offseason — one with the speed and ability to stretch a defense — something they lacked amid last season’s 10-6 finish. But it came as somewhat of a surprise that they snagged Jackson and then Atwell with their first draft pick, especially after Jefferson — a second-round pick in 2020 — demonstrated potential in his rookie season.

“In some ways it’s a luxury,” Kupp said. “You’ve got such a deep group of guys and really the next best thing about it is that guys aren’t just locked in on one position, guys want to learn the entire offense, so you’ve got five guys that can play every position that you ask them to.”

Jackson has a history with McVay, who served as his offensive coordinator for three seasons in Washington. The 14-year pro spent the past two seasons slowed and sidelined because of injuries but expressed confidence in his ability to remain healthy in his return to his hometown.

“It’s definitely going to be a scary group for defenses and defenders cause Sean McVay, one thing about it, he’s going to figure out how to get you open,” said Jackson, who ranks sixth all-time in the NFL with 17.4 yards per reception. “So we just look forward to having a lot of fun doing it.”

After he was selected 57th overall last year, Jefferson quickly established a reputation as a mature individual and polished route runner. He flashed during training camp but saw limited opportunities during the regular season.

When asked about his comfort with the offense going into Year 2, Jefferson admitted he wasn’t as settled as he appeared his rookie season.

“If I had to be honest, last year I was a rookie coming in I was kind of — my head spinning and stuff like that,” said Jefferson, who caught 19 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown. “But I think I’m more comfortable now.”

McVay called Jefferson a “major bright spot” this offseason.

“He’s really put the work in,” McVay said. “He’s come back establishing himself as a legitimate dude, a guy that we’re counting on for big things and I think the future is so bright.”

When asked about the Rams adding two more receivers this offseason, Jefferson said he had to be comfortable with the decision.

“You just take it one day at a time,” Jefferson said. “You know, not pay attention to that and just go out there and just complete and work every day and everything else will take care of itself.”

Woods said Atwell played with swagger during the offseason program and demonstrated his quickness and ability to get downfield fast.

“He plays with a ton of heart and speed,” Woods said.

However, with Jefferson’s progress and if Jackson remains healthy, Atwell could be facing an uphill battle for playing time.

McVay has compared Atwell’s skillset to Jackson, and although the Rams invested a second-round pick in Atwell, repetitions with Stafford behind Woods, Kupp, Jackson, Jefferson might be limited for the rookie, who is expected to return punts on special teams.

“Right now just getting my feet wet,” Atwell said during organized team activities. “Just pretty much studying games and just watching [veteran players] and asking them questions and how to do this and how to do that.”

Woods said the chemistry is growing on and off the field and each receiver brings a unique talent and ability.

“All these players do different things and what they bring to our offense is going to be a really great combination giving you all around the field, down field, fly sweeps, intermediate screens,” Woods said. “I think everybody can contribute in every single way.”

Stafford kept it simple when asked how his numerous playmakers can earn targets.

“For me,” Stafford said, “I think just be assignment sound, get open and catch the ball.”

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