One of the biggest themes in the NFL that has come out of the 2022 season so far is the awareness surrounding concussions and how steps can be taken to improve the safety of players, and it makes sense why Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford sat out of the Week 10 game against the Arizona Cardinals after spending the practice week in the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Stafford has children and a family to think about, which greatly outweighs the importance of trying to win football games - no matter how lost your season felt at that point.
But you’d expect the Rams to be better prepared to replace their signal caller on one-game basis. Sunday’s 27-17 loss to the Cardinals lacked fight, preparedness, and purpose.
John Wolford has been in Los Angeles working with Sean McVay for four years. Third-string QB Bryce Perkins has been with the team three. Both players made appearances in Sunday’s game, but neither’s performance suggested they could be trusted with the season on the line.
It’s not just a matter of individual play, the Rams and McVay failed to support Wolford and Perkins. This was an organization failure, and so has the 2022 season through nine games.
After winning a Super Bowl just a season ago, Los Angeles’ season effectively ends before their second half stretch really even got started.
There’s plenty of blame to go around, and few bright spots to take comfort in:
The biggest beneficiaries of the Rams’ disappointing 2022 season are the Detroit Lions, who own LA’s first round draft selection as part of the package sent in return for Matthew Stafford.
Both teams currently have a 3-6 record, but the Rams’ pick is slotted in at #7 overall and Detroit is in the #11 position.
What are the odds the Lions finish the season with a better overall record? They’ve won two in a row while the Rams are in the midst of a three-game slide.
Kyren Williams, RB
Williams gave the offense a spark on offense well after the outcome was already decided. The rookie has one carry for 9 yards and caught 3 passes for 30 yards in his offensive debut.
The only question I have is: why wasn’t he involved earlier in the game?
Don’t know if it was just me, but Kyren Williams looked explosive with his limited touches. I know creativity hasn’t been a strength lately for McVay, but Willams definitely needs to be involved going forward.— Don Wilson (@IamDonWilson) November 14, 2022
Tyler Higbee, TE
The veteran tight end has been the team’s de-facto #2 receiver behind Cooper Kupp and with Allen Robinson struggling to acclimate to Los Angeles - and he was probably the Rams’ best offensive player against Arizona.
Higbee caught all 8 of his targets for 73 yards and gave the offense a boost with a 25-yard catch and run on a screen. This is an encouraging development as he’s been noticeably uninvolved the past two weeks.
Tyler Higbee moves the chains! pic.twitter.com/Lvc9PavPPt— LA Rams Nation (@RamsNationCP) November 13, 2022
John Wolford, QB
Wolford played an increased role during training camp while LA attempted to manage the workload of Stafford in the context of his chronic elbow injury. How were the Rams content to head into the season with Wolford as the primary backup after getting an extended look at him in practice over the last four years?
Flat out - Wolford is not an NFL caliber thrower of the football, though his mobility and ability to extend plays was a welcome addition to the offense. It looks good up to the point where the ball leaves his hand - because most of the passes sailed feet above the head of the intended target.
The eye test looked much worse than the final stat line for Wolford, and he easily could have thrown multiple more picks than the one he received credit for.
Wolford also threw hospital balls to Cooper Kupp, who left the game early with injury suffered on the throw, and to Van Jefferson (banged up but later returned to catch a TD).
David Long, CB
This was one of the worst overall outings by the defense this season, which is particularly disappointing considering the Rams were facing a career backup in Colt McCoy.
David Long was the culprit of some of the Cardinals’ most important offensive plays on Sunday - including a missed tackle on third-and-a-mile on Rondale Moore that set up an eventual fourth down conversion. He also gave up a touchdown to AJ Green and was a liability in run defense.
Long was supposed to take a step forward in year four, which also coincides with the end of his rookie contract. He seems to be playing his way out of Los Angeles, but for the wrong reasons instead of for a contract the Rams cannot afford.
Sean McVay, Head Coach
It was somewhat expected that the Rams would platoon Wolford and Bryce Perkins to a certain extent, but McVay’s usage of Perkins was head scratching.
Perkins was used only as a running threat - his only pass attempt was a unimaginative screen pass to Kupp that resulted in a 3-yard loss. It seemed LA was deploying a wildcat-like formation with him instead of leveraging the quarterback as both a running and passing threat.
Perkins is an explosive athlete and dangerous as a runner, but the failure to establish him as a passer mitigated the overall effectiveness of his usage. At the end of the day, that’s poor design by McVay and the coaching staff.
When the Cowboys had to lean on Cooper Rush, Dallas paired 28 pass attempts per game with 26.6 rushing attempts.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakDTR) November 14, 2022
The Patriots paired 27.5 Bailey Zappe passing attempts with 26 rushing attempts.
Today, the Rams paired 36 John Wolford pass attempts with 12 rushing attempts.
McVay and Les Snead have been willing to let Wolford serve as the primary backup quarterback for three years, and for the past two seasons have burned a roster spot to stash Perkins. How is it that neither of these individuals are capable of filling in for even a single game? Based on how we saw the rams use Perkins in this game, no other team in the NFL would pick him up off waivers should be be released.
McVay and Snead have also wasted important roster spots by holding onto Tutu Atwell, Lance McCutcheon, and Bobby Brown despite no plans to use them in any meaningful way. With a team that has a minimal amount of depth, these roster spots could almost certainly be leveraged in a more effective way.