Through four weeks the 2022 season has not been what the Los Angeles Rams expected. After winning Super Bowl LVI just months ago on the backs of an aggressive defense and a dynamic passing attack, the pillar’s of last year’s championship team are crumbling.
A lack of production at receiver - aside from the consistently great Cooper Kupp - has LA’s offense looking anemic, especially coupled with repeated head-scratching decisions by Matthew Stafford. The Rams prioritized becoming more effective on the ground in 2022, but so far Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson have yet to impress in a meaningful way.
On defense, opposing quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball remarkably fast - and there hasn’t been much of a pass rush for LA outside of Aaron Donald. The Rams have been picked apart for the better part of three of their four games so far, but they can hang their hat on keeping Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals out of the end zone in Week 3.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for the unfortunate start to the season - and there’s plenty of time for the team and each of these individuals to turn things around.
Here are the 7 most disappointing Rams through the first quarter of the season in 2022, ranked by order of most disappointing:
1 - Matthew Stafford, QB
Yes, the offensive line and an overall ineffective receiving corps deserves such share of the blame for the offensive struggles, but Stafford has put the Rams’ defense repeatedly in bad spots with mistakes uncharacteristic of a 14-year NFL veteran.
Most pick-sixes since 2020:— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 4, 2022
Matthew Stafford 8
4 players tied / 4 pic.twitter.com/l8gxISiU55
In terms of overall PFF offensive grade after filtering out players with fewer than 20% of the league leading snap figure (198), Stafford ranks just 21st among all signal callers - even behind the likes of Geno Smith, Tua Tagovailoa. Jacoby Brissett, Davis Mills, Mitchell Trubisky, and Jimmy Garoppolo. LA’s franchise quarterback is in sole possession of first place for interceptions with 6, though he’s thrown just 4 touchdowns.
Usually with Stafford the good outweighs the bad, meaning that you can look past the ugly interceptions because he normally comes back with a bomb only a handful of NFL quarterbacks are able to make - but that’s just not a correct assertion so far in 2022.
Stafford is as much part of the problem as any other struggling position group on the offense, and the bottom line is he has to be better.
Bottom-five quarterbacks in EPA per dropback on clean dropbacks (no pressure) through Week 4, per PFF/TruMedia:— Austin Gayle (@austingayle_) October 5, 2022
28. Matthew Stafford
29. Cooper Rush
30. Davis Mills
31. Mitchell Trubisky
32. Baker Mayfield
2 - Allen Robinson, WR
If you would have told me prior to the start of the season that Robinson would enter Week 5 with 9 receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown, I probably would have though he put up those numbers in the season opener and then missed the next three games with injury.
Robinson was the talk of training camp - and at times it seemed he was outshining even Cooper Kupp. We saw highlight clip after clip of Robinson soaring through the air to snag touchdowns and “moss” the Rams’ defensive backs, though he’s been a complete afterthought in the regular season.
Allen Robinson training camp hype pic.twitter.com/cOHy8knkMT— Sosa Kremenjas (@QBsMVP) October 4, 2022
Only the Rams’ coaching staff knows the true reason Robinson has disappointed so far. Sure, it’s fair that it might take time to develop chemistry with Stafford. Maybe the offensive line struggles and the absence of third receiver Van Jefferson if keeping Robinson from playing his true role in the offense.
But shame on the Rams if they are aware that Robinson has lost a step and can no longer separate, especially since they keep rolling him out on the field. Sean McVay and the Rams should be rolling the best 11 players out on the field regardless of how much they are getting paid, and it’s time to question whether Robinson belongs in that group.
3 - Joseph Noteboom, LT
No one reasonably expected Joseph Noteboom to step in for Andrew Whitworth as a full-time starter and become a one-for-one replacement for Whitworth’s Hall of Fame level of production, but it’s still fair to expect more from the fifth-year left tackle.
Per PFF blocking grade data, Noteboom has already allowed 5 sacks through 4 games, and he’s allowed 20 total pressures - the next closest is RT Rob Havenstein with 10. Noteboom and Havenstein are the only Rams offensive linemen to play the majority of the snaps in all 4 games.
To be fair, Noteboom has had difficult matchups in Von Miller and Nick Bosa - but things won’t get easier with Micah Parsons coming to town in Week 5.
4 - Leonard Floyd, OLB
Give Leonard Floyd credit - he’s been an important piece of a revamped run defense. With that said, Floyd hasn’t lived up to his billing as a pass rusher.
With Von Miller playing in Buffalo, the Rams needed Floyd to step up as the number two pass rusher behind Aaron Donald - allowing LA to live with the production from Terrell Lewis and Justin Hollins on the other side of the defense. Floyd is only pressuring on 12.5% of his pass rushes, which is about half as often as what we’d expect from the elite-level edge rushers.
The lack of pass rush has resulted in the Rams manufacturing pressure through extra rushers and blitzes, and they’ve been burned by this at times.
5 - Cam Akers, RB
Akers was expected to be the lead back heading into the season, especially a year removed from the major Achilles injury he suffered during summer 2021.
Since returning from the aforementioned injury, Akers has been plagued by a severely low yardage per carry average - and he’s at 3.1 so far this season.
Yes, the offensive line has struggled to create much room, but Darrell Henderson is averaging a full yard more on his rushing attempts, and Henderson doesn’t have the fumbling problem that pops up with Akers from time to time.
Darrell Henderson - 34 carries, 138 yards (4.1 avg), 1 TD
Cam Akers - 38 carries, 118 yards (3.1 avg), 1 TD, 1 fumble lost
6 - Tutu Atwell, WR
A healthy inactive after being drafted in the second round just the year before.
You don’t draft a 5-9, 160 lbs. receiver on day two of the draft unless you have a plan to use him, so in some ways the Rams’ coaching staff deserves as much blame as Atwell for not getting the youngster onto the field.
With Robinson wholly disappointing so far this season, would playing Atwell really be worse? At least with his speed you’d think he could separate from opposing defensive backs from time to time.
It’s a long season and the 2022 book might not yet be written for Tutu Atwell.
7 - Jordan Fuller, DB
Perhaps no Ram has had a further fall from grace than third-year safety Jordan Fuller.
After earning the designation of defensive captain and signal caller in just his second season, Fuller has been relegated to a role as the third safety behind Nick Scott and Taylor Rapp. The safety was even running downfield to cover kickoffs against the San Francisco 49ers, which is not even something he did regularly as a rookie.
It’s been tough for Fuller so far in 2022, and it’ll be another 2-4 weeks before he sees the field again after re-aggravating a hamstring injury against the 49ers.