Four snafus in 2022 that Rams must address in offseason
By Reese Evans
The 2022 regular season was the opposite of what Rams fans expected after winning Super Bowl 56. A 5-12 record, free agent quarterback Baker Mayfield at quarterback, and rumors of LA Rams head coach Sean McVay retiring made the myth of a Super Bowl hangover into a disturbing reality for Rams fans. How did Los Angeles go from Super Bowl Champions to one of the more disappointing squads in recent memory? Let’s talk about it.
So what was the leading cause of the Rams’ decline?
Injuries were the major culprit of the Rams’ struggles. HC Sean McVay was forced to start 11 different offensive line combinations in the first 11 weeks of the season, an NFL record. The bad offensive line had ripple effects on the rest of the offense. Quarterbacks had no time to throw and running backs were stagnant most of the season.
According to Pro Football Reference, the Rams rushing offense ranked 27th in the NFL with just 4.0 rushing yards per attempt. The running backs also ranked 27th in rushing yards. LA Rams RB Cam Akers led the team with just 786 yards after only appearing in 15 games, due to a mid-season hiatus. LA Rams starting QB Matthew Stafford took lots of hits, being sacked 29 times in his nine starts. An offensive line that cannot stay healthy hinders the offense’s ability to make plays and win football games.
Snafu I: Off-season action has gone to waste?
Another cause of the Rams’ struggles this season was little production from offseason signings. Excluding LA Rams ILB Bobby Wagner, production has been hard to come by from newcomers. WR Allen Robinson II was one of the more disappointing signings in recent memory for Rams fans. Following a three-year, $45 million deal, Robinson II posted 33 receptions, 339 yards, and just three touchdowns in 10 games before having his season ended due to a foot injury.
Robinson II and Stafford never established a connection before both of their injuries. But there is cause to believe that it can be fixed, as WR Tutu Atwell, a healthy scratch, actually played quite well for the offense when targeted.
LA Rams LT Joe Noteboom- the unproven left tackle who was tasked with being the heir apparent to former Rams LT Andrew Whitworth. The Rams showed confidence in the young tackle, signing him to a three-year deal worth up to $47.5 million.
Rams fans, including myself, were a bit shocked when the news broke about this deal. Noteboom was placed on IR in Week 7, ending his season. He was not playing particularly well before his injury, giving Rams fans uncertainty heading into the 2023 regular season at the left tackle position. Brian Allen also inked a three-year deal worth $8 million per season. Allen has been in and out of the lineup with various injuries throughout the season. The offensive line as a unit is a bit of a question mark for the Rams that will need to be answered during the offseason.
Snafu II: The loss of Rams OC Kevin O’Connell hurt offensive electricity
The importance of previous offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell cannot be understated. The Rams’ offense is known to be electrifying and high-octane, with most credit given to Coach McVay. This year it has been everything but that. The 2022 Rams have not gained 360 yards in a game compared to a season-high of 476 yards in 2021. Coach O’Connell could have been more important to the offense than most fans initially thought.
Although the Rams were riddled with injuries, every offensive statistic decreased compared to 2021. Liam Coen, the Rams’ offensive coordinator in 2022, announced he is returning to the University of Kentucky on Tuesday. A search for a new OC is now near the top of LA Rams GM Les Snead’s offseason checklist.
Snafu III: The departure of key players hurt Rams in 2022
Roster turnover was an important factor in the Rams not repeating their success this season. OLB Von Miller was an integral part of the Super Bowl run last year, complimenting DT Aaron Donald and OLB Leonard Floyd rushing the quarterback.
CB Darius Williams signed with the Jaguars, who took the pressure off CB Jalen Ramsey in the secondary. DL Sebastian Joseph-Day flipped locker rooms at SoFi Stadium, signing on with the LA Chargers. And OG Austin Corbett, possibly the most important loss, signed with the Carolina Panthers in free agency.
The Rams went all-in in 2021, making the moves necessary to hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the city of Los Angeles for the first time. It all worked out last season but has had ripple effects into the new year. Questionable signings and roster moves have left Rams GM Les Snead in a bit of a hole entering the 2023 off-season. Not to mention the recent rumors of Coach McVay leaving the team after the season, which will be a story to follow on its own. How does Les Snead fix these issues heading into next season?
Snafu IV: Stability
Finally, establishing stability across the board is important for success next year. The Rams were historically bitten by the injury bug, so we can hopefully count on that not repeating itself next year. Health on the offensive line will be key to success in 2023. A quarterback and running back that are suited up for all 18 games are also important.
Questions being answered about Sean McVay’s future will give Les Snead clarity about how to proceed to fill these gaps in the roster. There have been questions about the health of starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, and whether he will be healthy enough to come back in 2023 due to a series of injuries suffered through 2022. In a nutshell, getting this team healthy and keeping them there is the main path to success for the Rams next season. Let’s hope that the Super Bowl hangover does not carry into the 2023 season.