Matthew Stafford entered the 2023 NFL season almost as healthy as he ever has in his career. However, as the Los Angeles Rams have struggled in pass protection, Stafford’s healthy also took a hit. In Week 4 against the Indianapolis Colts, Stafford injured his hip and seemingly hasn’t been the same quarterback since that hit.
The Rams haven’t made a big deal about the hip injury. However, Diana Russsini of The Athletic reported that the team was closely monitoring it and that he was dealing with pain. The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue also wrote that the Rams are continuing to monitor the hip contusion.
At times, Stafford has looked like an elite, top-7 quarterback in the NFL this season. In Weeks 1-4, Stafford ranked 11th in EPA. However, since then, he’s had one of the worst four-game stretches for a quarterback in the Sean McVay era.
Over the past four weeks, Stafford ranks 22nd in EPA and his EPA + CPOE (completion percentage over expectation) of -0.004 ranks 24th out of 28 quarterbacks.
Stafford’s latest four-game stretch is the second-worst of the McVay era. Jared Goff’s -0.017 EPA + CPOE composite score in Weeks 6-10 of 2019 is the only worse stretch. While that came over a five-week period, the Rams had a bye in Week 9 of that season.
In both seasons, the Rams struggled to field even an average offensive line. In 2019, the Rams offensive line ranked 29th in pass-blocking according to Pro Football Focus and 22nd in pass-block win rate.
This season the Rams rank 29th in pass-blocking via PFF and 27th in pass-block win-rate via ESPN Stats and Info.
For an offense that relies so heavily on the offensive line, it’s fair to question why the Rams have just now really started to address the position this season. They drafted Steve Avila and traded for Kevin Dotson. However, there are still major question marks, especially at left tackle and center. Back in 2019, the Rams also had major question-marks at center and guard as they moved on from Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan.
A look at how long a QB extends the play after pressure arrives and how often he takes a sack on those plays pic.twitter.com/7C21hPA6iu— Jrfortgang (@throwthedamball) November 2, 2023
Stafford’s level has dropped since injuring his hip and now he’s also dealing with a sprained UCL in his thumb. In the first four weeks of the season, Stafford’s average QBR was 58.83. Over the past four weeks that dropped over 10 points to 43.85 Simply put, the Rams have struggled to protect their biggest asset and the player most responsible for their success. He’s also getting older as the injuries pile up which is never good at this stage of a player’s career.
The Rams need to make the offensive line a primary focus in the 2024 offseason if they want to keep Stafford healthy and get the offense back to where it needs to be.