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Sean McVay: Rams' Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, Matthew Stafford will have 'edge to them' in 2023

Unfortunate history was made by the 2022 Los Angeles Rams, who were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

Their dismissal tied for the earliest elimination for a defending Super Bowl champion.

Many of their struggles can be attributed to injuries wreaking havoc. Among the most impactful were those to the Rams' big three of Aaron Donald, Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp.

All three are on track to be back for 2023, and head coach Sean McVay believes the all-star trio will have something to prove and a gleam in their gaze.

"We lost a lot of great players, but we were missing a lot of great players last year," McVay said Thursday night on NFL Network's Schedule Release '23. "And those three guys are phenomenal players, they're phenomenal people and I think there's just a little bit of a good edge to them in terms of missing the game a little bit."

Stafford matched his career high with 41 touchdown passes in 2021 as he quarterbacked the Rams to a Super Bowl title. But his 2022 campaign was cut to nine games as he dealt with an elbow injury and then a spinal cord bruise/concussion.

Donald earned his sixth straight All-Pro nod in 2021 to lead the Rams defense and was an absolute monster in the second half of the team's Super Bowl triumph over the Cincinnati Bengals. His 2022 showing saw just 11 games, however, as he ended the year early with an ankle injury -- the first significant ailment of his Hall of Fame career.

Kupp made history in the Rams' run to the Super Bowl, claiming the receiving triple crown (leading the league in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns) before hoisting the Super Bowl MVP. Like Donald and Stafford, he too saw his season cut short in 2022 thanks to a high ankle sprain.

"We sure as heck missed them and it'll be great, because those kinda guys, they elevate people around them," McVay said. "There's gonna be a lot of young guys that we have."

As the Rams look to rebound, they'll also be rebuilding their roster with an NFL-high 14 draft picks. It's the franchise's most selections in a draft since taking the same number in 1992.

As McVay, who took the Rams' helm in 2017, aims to rally back from a 5-12 season -- the first losing campaign of his career -- he knows it's incumbent upon his core group of stars to not just shine, but mentor the influx of youngsters on the roster.

"When our rookies come in [Friday], it's gonna be another half the team and it's going to be exciting to get to know those guys, build and develop relationships," McVay said, "and those guys are going to be key and critical to help bringing them along when you talk about Aaron, Matthew and Cooper."

There will be plenty of fresh faces on the 2023 Rams, but there will also be three standouts returning to the field and hoping to return to the form that propelled L.A. to a Super Bowl.

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