The Los Angeles Rams have been disappointing to start the year, but it’s not reasonable to allow injuries to become an excuse - at least according to one advanced statistic.
First, let’s take inventory of the major injuries afflicting the 2022 Rams.
Perhaps the biggest change in 2022 has been the turnover along the offensive line, though the defensive secondary is fairly short-handed as well.
Los Angeles has failed to protect Matthew Stafford, and both the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers made the veteran quarterback look helpless at times. The retirement of Andrew Whitworth and the free agency departure of Austin Corbett loom large at the start of the year. Injuries to Brian Allen, Coleman Shelton, David Edwards, Logan Bruss, and Tremayne Anchrum have prevented Los Angeles from building any real chemistry among that group.
The secondary has also been in a constant state of flux. David Long, Troy Hill went down early in the season. Rookie corner Cobie Durant filled in at slot corner in their absence and impressed in limited action, but he’s missed the last two games with injury. The third safety Jordan Fuller missed the Week 3 game against the Arizona Cardinals, but was injured versus the 49ers - he’s expected to miss a couple weeks with a hamstring injury.
Derion Kendrick and Grant Haley have filled in admirably at corner given the circumstances.
Even the Rams’ head coach, Sean McVay, has leaned into using injuries as an excuse for the team’s less than stellar start to the new season. Here’s what he had to say when asked about why second-year receiver Tutu Atwell was inactive for last week’s game:
“Really just for the overall (special) teams and just kind of the overall approach. Could be very different this week... We’ve had more moving parts than we’ve ever had since I’ve been here and going to the early parts of the season. That’s why it was really just exclusive to yesterday.”
Measuring the toll taken by injuries
Subjectively it seems that LA has been dealt more than its fair share of bad injury luck this year; however, objectively, most teams have had it far worse in 2022.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) uses its Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric to quantity how beneficial a certain player is to their team over an average replacement-level player.
For example, last year’s Super Bowl winning Rams team was second in the NFL in PFF WAR. Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Donald, and Cooper Kupp were all the highest rated players at their respective positions in terms of WAR.
The below charts represent the amount of WAR lost to injury through the first four weeks of the 2022 season - one including QB injuries and the other excluding those. The Rams are towards the bottom of the graph both before and after adjusting for games lost at the quarterback position.
WAR lost to injury for NFL Weeks 1-4— Benjamin Brown (@PFF_BenBrown) October 5, 2022
⚫️WAR lost for entire team
⚫️WAR lost excluding QB's
⚫️WAR lost broken out by offense/defense excluding QB's pic.twitter.com/lUFkOQ1Ws3
The third chart depicts WAR lost on offense and defense - and the Rams are again in the bottom half for each side of the ball.
What does this mean for Rams in 2022?
Yes, the Rams have lost a number of players to injury so far this year; however, the individuals on the sideline aren’t the most important players on the team.
For as long as Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and Matthew Stafford are on the field, we should expect the team to be better.
In other words, while the Rams are short-handed in spots, they are still fielding the most important individual players on their team. We should expect more out of this year’s Rams team, and we shouldn’t allow them to use injuries as an excuse for a disappointing start to the season.