The 2021-22 NFL season was a magical one for the Los Angeles Rams as seemingly everything went right for them down the stretch, leading to the organization’s first Super Bowl win in the Sean McVay era.
The 2022-23 season, however, has been a much different story for the Rams. Through seven games, they currently sit at 3-4.
Once known as an offensive guru (less than a year ago), McVay is now struggling to find answers for the Rams offensively. In fact, the Rams’ offense ranks dead last in expected EPA per play:
Now, the big question is: How did this happen?
A lot of the Rams’ offensive players are the same from a season ago but the offense has gone from ninth to 30th in total yards and eighth to 28th in points per game.
There are a number of different reasons for this downfall so let’s go unit by unit and see what the problem is.
There’s nowhere else you can start when talking about the Rams’ offensive struggles except the offensive line.
The Rams offensive line lost to key starters from a year ago in Andrew Whitworth and Austin Corbett. To make matters worse, they have been without seven of their top eight offensive linemen for a portion of this season.
Included in that are season-ending injuries for left tackle Joe Noteboom and rookie Logan Bruss, as well as center Brian Allen, guard Coleman Shelton and a number of others also missing time.
That has not allowed this unit, which was already short on talent to begin with, to gain any sort of continuity. As a result, Matthew Stafford has been sacked the fourth-most times in the league at 24 while there also haven’t been any holes for the running backs to get through. Not a recipe success in a McVay-led offense that typically thrives off the run game and play action.
Speaking of the run game, it doesn’t all fall on the offensive line as the Rams also have arguably the worst running back group in the league. That is why L.A. made a run at Christian McCaffrey before he was ultimately traded from the Carolina Panthers to the rival San Francisco 49ers.
The Rams were hoping for Cam Akers to take over the lead-back role this season but that never came to fruition. Akers does not have that same burst he had before tearing his Achilles and his struggles have led to him being out of the mix completely in recent weeks.
Outside of Akers, the Rams also had big expectations for rookie fifth-round pick Kyren Williams. Unfortunately, he has not yet seen the field this season due to injury. That leaves the Rams with a current running back group of Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown and Ronnie Rivers.
All are capable of being decent backups on any given day but none are lead backs and the result has been the Rams ranking second-to-last in rushing yards per game at 68.4.
The Rams quality pass-catchers unfortunately start and end with Cooper Kupp right now. Kupp is having another outstanding season but outside of him, Stafford hasn’t had anyone else that is reliable and consistent.
The good news here is that Allen Robinson seems to be coming on in recent weeks after a slow start (10 catches for 117 yards and a touchdown in his last two games after just 12 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown in his first five). Also, Van Jefferson is now back which gives the Rams the deep threat they have missed so far this season.
L.A. ranks dead last in explosive plays this season, so hopefully as Jefferson gets healthier they can start to take and hit more shots.
Everything I talked about above are things that do not promote good quarterback play, and that is why Stafford has struggled. He has no run game. He’s had no deep threat. His offensive line can’t protect him for more than a couple of seconds.
As a result, Stafford, who was in the MVP conversation a year ago, is averaging just 251.9 yards per game with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. Not good!
Stafford’s elbow was a big story during training camp and while he has been able to play through it, the lack of deep balls shows that he is a bit limited right now.
So all of this to say that right now there doesn’t seem to be an easy fix for the Rams’ league-worst offense. Every unit is struggling, including McVay and the coaching staff.
This veteran group deserves at least some benefit of the doubt as the defending Super Bowl champs. At 3-4, there’s still time to turn it around and make the playoffs. But that will take a group effort and improvements in all areas.