Following an abysmal title defense showing on opening night, Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams are back to the drawing board.
A 31-10 blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills on Thursday opened questions about the imminent future of the Los Angeles Rams. All the questions asked paled in comparison to the quarterback’s issues.
Matthew Stafford is fresh off a Super Bowl win, a legacy-defining season, and one of the best overall seasons of his career. But a poor performance on opening night (29-41 for 240 yards and 3 Ints) has only emphasized the difficult offseason he had.
According to reports before Thursday’s contest, Stafford went through an elbow procedure that was “abnormal for a quarterback”. While the former #1 overall pick had touted that he had no limitations heading into the opening game, the eye test told a much different story.
Whether due to a lack of time with his receivers in the off-season, or simply not playing at game speed, Stafford was late on a lot of his throws. His first two interceptions of the game came on plays where it felt he tried to push the ball downfield and the defender was waiting for the ball.
All quarterbacks go through a rough game throughout a season and career. Stafford is not immune to this. But the concern of an elbow procedure that pitchers normally have, followed by a poor showing on Thursday will leave questions about Stafford’s overall availability, and dependability.
The Rams and their quarterback can tout all they want about how healthy they believe their quarterback to be: it certainly didn’t look so Thursday night.
It wasn’t all on Stafford
There are other factors that played into the Ram’s blowout loss and offensive struggles Thursday as well other than Stafford.
Buffalo sacked Stafford seven times throughout the contest, exploiting a weakness that opened up with the retirement of Andrew Whitworth. Whitworth was in no way a dominant left tackle in the late stages of his career, but he was very serviceable and could have at least helped weather the storm early on.
Instead, Stafford was pressured again, and again throughout the night culminating in the large sack total and back-breaking turnovers.
A poor offensive line can make a Hall-of-Fame quarterback look pedestrian, but is the OL the sole reason for Stafford’s struggles?
It’s important to also remember that the Ram’s starting quarterback did not throw in the spring and was put on a throwing schedule throughout training camp. The lack of Allen Robinson in the game plan could be explained for that, as could Stafford being late on many of his reads.
But there are quarterbacks who have recently had similar surgeries to Stafford over the last few years and played a lot better to start the season. Dak Prescott had a similar arm problem in 2021 but came out firing in the team’s opening night heart-breaker to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It’s also important to note that the “off-schedule” throws that quarterbacks make: whether that be side-arm, no-look, or other ways, cause a great deal of stress on a quarterback’s arm.
Stafford isn’t the first, nor will he be the last quarterback to suffer through an arm injury like he did this offseason. But if the defending Super Bowl champs are unable to make up ground after a disappointing opening day start, questions will absolutely be pointed at their starting quarterback and his overall health.