A Reason To Think The Rams Offense Will Rebound In 2023

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The LA Rams had one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history in 2022, and a big reason for that was the offensive line.

The Rams’ offensive line was a big question mark going into the season considering former Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth retired in the offseason and the team’s top draft pick Logan Bruss tore his ACL in the preseason.

As far as injuries go though, that was just the beginning and the Rams’ offense suffered because of it.

Injuries became such a problem on the offensive line that the Rams became the first team in NFL history to have 12 different combinations up front in the first 12 weeks of the season.

Injuries and injuries

In addition to Bruss, the Rams also lost center Brian Allen to a knee injury in Week 1. That forced right guard Coleman Shelton to move to center, although that was short-lived as he also got hurt in the ensuing weeks. Additionally, right guard Tremayne Anchrum suffered a season-ending ankle injury, left tackle Joe Noteboom went down with a torn Achilles and other linemen like Alaric Jackson, David Edwards and Chandler Brewer also missed extended periods as well.

Guys who were either fourth-stringers like Jeremiah Kolone or not in the organization at the beginning of the season like Ty Nsehke, Matt Skura and Oday Aboushi wound up playing big roles for the Rams on the offensive line with veteran Rob Havenstein being the only one to stay healthy for all 17 games.

The lack of continuity up front made it awfully tough for the Rams to do anything offensively. The team had no run game for a majority of the season, while Matthew Stafford had no time to throw. Stafford is not known for being mobile so could not avoid the rush. He is known for being able to throw the deep ball extremely well, however, that was nearly impossible considering defensive linemen were routinely in his face after one or two seconds.

The result was Stafford suffering a pair of concussions and a spinal cord contusion, marking the end of his season.

While Stafford has said he is now healthy and has no plans of retiring, the Rams offensive line will need to be better in 2023 if the 34-year-old wants to stay healthy and get back to being an elite quarterback.

Reasons for optimism

The good news is that the graph in this post shows reasons for optimism if you’re the Rams.

First, guys like Bruss, Edwards and Jackson should all be healthy for the start of next season. But even if they aren’t, the Rams showed down the stretch in 2022 that regardless of who is playing, they can find success as long as there is continuity up front.

In the first half of 2022 when Stafford played, the Rams offensive line had a Pro Football Focus pass block grade in the 50s, likely one of, if not the worst mark in the league. As a result, Stafford had a negative EPA per play.

If you look at the second half of the season though when Baker Mayfield took over, the Rams’ pass block grade jumped all the way up to the 80s, which was likely one of the best marks in the league during that span.

The reason for that jump wasn’t because the Rams had better players on their offensive line. In fact, it was quite the opposite as it was mostly third-stringers, fourth-stringers and practice squad players. That is the power of continuity in this league though. If you give guys a few weeks to play together and figure each other out, success will follow. Especially in a scheme that is as good as the Rams’ with Sean McVay calling plays.

L.A.’s offense didn’t necessarily get better to end the season, but most of that fell on Mayfield who had around the same EPA per play as Stafford, only with much better offensive line play in front of him. While Mayfield was a nice story for the Rams in an otherwise lost season, it’s clear that he is no Stafford when it comes to playing quarterback in the NFL.

Time to throw is key for Stafford

Looking at Stafford’s career even dating back to his days with the Detroit Lions, he has found success whenever his offensive line has given him time to thrown.

In 2021 with the Rams, Stafford had one of the best EPA per play in the league around 0.2, and that was with the offensive line playing at the same level it did for Mayfield down the stretch in 2022. As the graph shows, Stafford also didn’t have a negative EPA per play in Detroit where his lines were solid but not great.

So while the Rams have a lot of needs to address this offseason, it’s clear that having a healthy offensive line will be the key to Stafford and the offense getting back on track. And L.A. may not be as far off from having that as many think.