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Wolford or Perkins: Who should start against the Cardinals if Stafford can’t play?

Who should start against the Cardinals if Stafford can’t play

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams could be without their starting quarterback on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. Matthew Stafford is now in the concussion protocol, according to head coach Sean McVay on Wednesday.

With Stafford in the concussion protocol, his status for Sunday’s game is in doubt. McVay didn’t rule Stafford out yet, but given some of the changes to the NFL’s concussion protocol following the Tua Tagovailoa situation, it would be surprising to see Stafford take the field.

If Stafford is unable to go, that leaves John Wolford or Brycen Perkins as the options at quarterback for the Rams. The question becomes, who should start?

A Case for John Wolford

John Wolford has been there before. This is a player that McVay clearly likes as he’s been on the roster the past three seasons. In 2020, Wolford started in Week 17 against the Arizona Cardinals, leading the Rams to a win and clinching a playoff spot.

The following week, Wolford again started the wild card game ahead of Jared Goff against the Seattle Seahawks before getting hurt after Jamal Adams hit the Rams quarterback in the head.

Against the Cardinals in his first NFL start, Wolford finished 22-for-38 for 231 yards and bounced back after an early interception. While the offense only scored nine points and failed to get the end zone, some context is needed.

Wolford led the offense down inside the two-yard line on two separate occasions. The first time, back-to-back false starts on second down pushed the Rams back to the 11. The second time, Cam Akers fumbled and the Cardinals recovered.

The Rams backup finished his first career start ranked 19th in EPA per dropback for the week and 11th in air yards.

Wolford isn’t necessarily someone you want starting for 17 games. However, as someone who can come in and add a different twist to the offense, he can certainly do that. The Rams offensive line hasn’t been good year. Adding an experienced backup that has some mobility, could help the Rams in the passing game.

This past year in the preseason, Wolford finished 14-for-22 for 142 yards. He doesn’t have great arm strength which limits his ability to push the ball down the field. However, as someone with experience in the system and active on Sundays as the backup, he makes a lot of sense.

A Case for Bryce Perkins

The Rams signed Bryce Perkins as an undrafted free agent last season and he’s remained on the roster as a third quarterback during that time. For the sake of roster space, it was the first time under McVay that the Rams had kept three quarterbacks which came as a surprise. The Rams clearly see something in Perkins.

Unlike Wolford, Perkins’ only experience comes in the preseason. Coming out of Virginia, Perkins has always been raw as a passer since being signed by the Rams. He lacks overall accuracy, however, what he adds with his legs is nearly unmatched.

Last year in the preseason, it was clear that Perkins had made some progress as a passer. He finished 35-of-49 for 399 yards and two touchdowns. Perkins’ completion percentage jumped up 10 points for 2021 to 2022. While that doesn’t speak to overall accuracy and ball placement, it does show that he was much more comfortable in year two.

The issue with Perkins is the inexperience. He’s rarely active on Sundays and has never taken a snap outside of the preseason. With the Rams sitting at 3-5, while Perkins brings a lot of athleticism to the quarterback position, it’s a huge risk to start a second year undrafted free agent at quarterback.

However, even if Perkins doesn’t start, this doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t have a role. McVay could decide to bring out some packages that include Perkins and can utilize his athleticism and ability as a passer - much like Taysom Hill.

The Verdict

The Rams will most likely start John Wolford on Sunday against the Cardinals. He’s someone who’s been in this situation before and has three years of experience in the offense. At the end of the day, these are two players that McVay has kept on the roster and developed in each of the last two years. If you can’t trust them to fill-in during this moment when your quarterback is out for one game, why are they on the roster to begin with?

This is a team that hasn’t spent as much as a day three pick on a quarterback. The last time they drafted a quarterback outside of the first round was 2015 when they took Sean Mannion in the third round.

Wolford has been in this situation before when he started in 2020 and helped clinch a playoff spot. Can he come in again and help save the Rams season?

On the flip side, Perkins brings a spark to the offense that’s felt every time he’s entered the game in the preseason. While inexperienced, he brings a special athleticism to the quarterback position that the team hasn’t seen since possibly Tony Banks.

McVay has a big decision to make. Whatever he does choose could decide the Rams’ fate for the 2022 season. A loss against the Cardinals almost certainly puts their season to rest.