Questions have been surrounding the health and availability of L.A. Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford throughout 2023, but if training camp is any indication then the veteran is ready to pick up where he left off as a Super Bowl champion in 2021.
The Rams pulled off one of the biggest moves in franchise history by moving Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford. In year one of his tenure with LA, Stafford won his first playoff game, then went on to win his first Super Bowl championship while throwing for 4,486 yards and 41 touchdown passes, both of which are Rams franchise records for a single season.
He was particularly deadly in the postseason, throwing for 1,188 yards and nine touchdown passes to only three interceptions in the four games. He also made one of the most clutch plays in Rams history against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round. The Buccaneers had just stormed back with 24 unanswered points to tie the game late, when Stafford hit Cooper Kupp for a 44 yard bomb with only :27 seconds left to set up Matt Gay for the game winning field goal.
Questions are still asked about what kind of Stafford the Rams are getting for 2023, especially after an injury riddled 2022 that ended early nine weeks into the season. However, news out of joint practice with the Las Vegas Raiders is that Stafford has looked completely revitalized with no signs of lingering elbow issues on his deep ball.
Stafford has been completing long play after long play, specifically growing his connection with third year receiver Tutu Atwell and rookie Puka Nacua. He has been making perfectly placed passes while shredding the Vegas defense.
Logan Reever, a sports broadcaster out of Vegas covering practice, specifically noted “Stafford still getting his with chunk plays. Pocket collapsing quick and d-line is forcing roll outs, but Rams O still completing balls. Pin point accuracy from Stafford again even on the run.”
Stafford signed a monster contract extension heading into 2022 season and hopes of a repeat were high in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, Stafford dealt with injuries all last year and it derailed the team to a 5-12 record. It’s possible that the shortened season may have been a blessing in disguise for Stafford’s ailments though, as he looks extremely crisp this far into the 2023 offseason.
Matt Stafford out here making a bunch of “there’s no defense for a perfect pass” passes.— Levi Damien (@LeviDamien) August 16, 2023
Time will tell if the offensive line can hold up, and it’s been an issue that has already flared up at joint practice with Vegas. The Raiders defensive line has been consistently beating the Rams offensive line in 1 vs 1 drills. If Stafford, who lacks some mobility, hopes to stay healthy then LA will need to figure out how to protect him better - whether that’s through play calling or better offensive line play.
That said, reports of Stafford’s accuracy and deep ball strength has to be music to Rams fan’s ears given the previous uncertainty surrounding their veteran signal caller. The emergence of rookie quarterback, Stetson Bennett, has been the talk of the town in Los Angeles, but if the Rams hope to succeed this year, it will need to be on the veteran arm of number nine.