Let’s start with the obvious. Everyone expects that newly acquired veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford will start out with Pro Bowl numbers out of the gate. But even the venerable Tom Brady struggled in the first half of the 2020 season in the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense. Eventually, he grew familiar with that offense, then proficient, and finally, deadly accurate.
So in comparison, perhaps this Sunday Night Football debut for Matthew Stafford may not result in one of the best QBR ratings of his career. But there are some things that will be key and that will track just how far the veteran has come in terms of absorbing and knowing the LA Rams 2021 playbook.
One of the first items of course is that center to quarterback exchange. Whether he is under center or in a shotgun formation, the comfort level and ease of handling the football after the snap will be critical. While it’s not something that is often monitored, it’s vital for the offense to ensure that Stafford gets the ball when he expects it and in a place where he can handle it comfortably. That includes both getting set to throw the ball as well as handing the ball off to a running back.
When Stafford does pass, will he read his progressions as well as advertised? Or will the Rams coaching staff dummy-down the playbook for this game to ensure that Stafford can execute everything in the offensive arsenal? Regardless of Stafford’s aptitude, I do expect him to test the Bears defense deep. Not only is that a new wrinkle added to the 2021 NFL offense, but it is the perfect opportunity to showcase Stafford’s arm strength and give upcoming defensive coordinators one more thing to try to plan for.