The 2021 NFL season is scheduled to play 17 games. But thanks to the LA Rams’ new veteran quarterback, starters may still only play the equivalent of 16 games by the time the season ends. In fact, they may play less.
Medical studies on soft tissue injuries, the type that can end an NFL player’s season, has irrefutable evidence that the risk for those injuries is significantly increased if an athlete fails to warm up and stretch properly before the game, and if that same athlete plays after muscle fatigue has set in.
Thankfully, the LA Rams veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s effect on the team allows them to rest starters late in the game. He did so in Week 6 on the road against the New York Giants. He may do so in Week 7 against the Detroit Lions. And there is every indication that he may do so again in the future.
After Stafford threw his fourth touchdown pass, this time a no-look 13-yard touchdown strike to his talented wide receiver Cooper Kupp to put the LA Rams ahead by the score of 38-3 with 11:55 remaining in the game, head coach Sean McVay had seen enough. The starters sat, and their backups got incredibly valuable experience on the football field in a real NFL game environment.
Saving starters now means fresher starters later
Starters rested with nearly 12 minutes remaining on the game clock. That is one more benefit to the Matthew Stafford effect, and the result is avoiding injury and prolonging the season for the veterans on the roster. Meanwhile, it allows the coaching staff to insert younger players who would otherwise not see playing time, or see it in incredibly tiny batches, to play for an extended period and reap the benefits of lining up and competing at the NFL level.
I don’t think the benefit of Stafford’s ability to get the LA Rams out to tremendous leads is talked about enough, or effectively appreciated.
That ability to allow the Rams players to compete gives the Rams coaching staff truly coachable moments to more than the same 22 players. It allows the Rams to see what works for backup defensive end Jonah Williams, as well as what isn’t working for backup quarterback John Wolford.
The rest of the Matthew Stafford story
Rest for the starters, experience, and coachable moments for the backups. It’s just one more benefit of having Stafford directing the LA Rams offense. Furthermore, it’s one more validation proving that the risks taken by head coach Sean McVay were truly worth it.
While nobody appreciates an extremely lopsided score in a football game, the LA Rams are learning that jumping out to an insurmountable lead has significant benefits. McVay will pull his starters if the Rams pile up enough points in a game to determine the outcome long before the final gun sounds.
With Matthew Stafford leading his offense, he will have the opportunity to do so. Perhaps several times this season. The Rams organization loves to accumulate elite NFL players because they tend to elevate the play of everyone else on the football field. Aaron Donald attracts two or three blockers per play, allowing his teammates to rush the passer lightly contested. Jalen Ramsey neutralizes the best receivers on offense, forcing the quarterback to hesitate and throw elsewhere.
Even Matthew Stafford’s ability to throw to the right receiver instantly has elevated the play of his receiving corps. But it doesn’t stop there. It seems that Matthew Stafford is giving the LA Rams entire roster a boost. In the end, that may be the greatest effect of all.