Don’t give up on LA Rams QB Matthew Stafford just yet
By Bret Stuter
The LA Rams know that the offense has been incredibly ineffective so far in the 2022 NFL season. While we have (and many continue to) lay the blame solely at the feet of a batter, bruised, restitched-together offensive line, that is simply not the case. At least that is not how recent evidence has stacked up so far.
What appears to be happening is that when the LA Rams fall behind, opponents know that the run game evaporates. If the Rams need to regain ground and make up a deficit on the scoreboard, the team will abandon rushing and throw almost exclusively, no matter who is under center. We have also found our fears confirmed, WR Allen Robinson has been more open for the LA Rams but passes have continued to be targetted to far less open Cooper Kupp.
And finally, the folks at ESPN, led by ESPN Analyst Dan Orlovsky, have proven that NFL defenses around the league have simply gotten smaller and faster than NFL offenses. As a result, power running and counter-run offenses are doing quite well this season, while passing offenses like the Rams are having a much worse time of it.
The Rams need to find new targets, so they will
At the heart of all these offensive challenges is the LA Rams, who seem to be on the wrong side of the scales no matter what you turn to. So how does any of this build on a topic worth discussing?
Well, we know that LA Rams veteran QB Mathew Stafford will not be throwing to his favorite target anytime soon. And who is his favorite target?
None other than LA Rams All-Pro WR Cooper Kupp. The problem is that Kupp is on the Rams’ IR list. So nobody knows who Stafford will throw to now. And that means, neither will the New Orleans Saints’ defense.
On top of it all, with the return of left guard David Edwards, the Rams could be at their best offensive line configuration. We believe that the Rams will start OL Ty Nsekhe at left tackle, David Edwards at left guard, Brian Allen at center, Coleman Shelton at right guard, and Rob Havenstein at right tackle. If Allen (knee, thumb) cannot go at center, then the Rams will likely slide Shelton to center and start OL Oday Aboushi at right guard.
EDITOR’s NOTE: After publication, the LA Rams reported that David Edwards will not be playing this week. Hopefully, the Rams go with Nsekhe, Matt Skura, Coleman Shelton, Oday Aboushi, and Rob Havenstein.
It’s probably too much to ask for the Rams to suddenly run with the football this week, especially when running the football made more sense to do when backup quarterback John Wolford was under center. But the Rams can get better on offense simply by becoming less predictable in any way possible, and the team certainly has a chance to mask their performance this week.
So who will Stafford throw to this week?
In response to Kupp’s absence, the offense could emphasize Robinson, WR Ben Skowronek, or even WR Van Jefferson. The team may throw to TE Tyler Higbee, or perhaps finally feature tight end Brycen Hopkins in this offense. And none of those options involves the audacity of actually trying to run the ball.
Once more, the Rams face a formidable pass defense in the New Orleans Saints. a team that has allowed just 195.9 yards per game (6th-ranked) through the air. That same defense has allowed 130.5 yards per game (22nd-ranked) on the ground.
If only the Rams would try to run the football, that just might work this week. But if not, the Saints’ defense could have its hands full just the same. Without the certainty of keying on Cooper Kupp, the Rams find themselves no longer as predictable for this one. In the end, that may be just enough to give Matthew Stafford the advantage once more.