Matthew Stafford All-22 Film Review: How good has he been, really?

Matthew Stafford came to Los Angeles with a ton of fanfare and high expectations. What does Stafford's All-22 film review show?

Matthew Stafford elevates the Los Angeles Rams offense to heights it hasn’t seen before, and this All-22 film review should prove that. Listen, Sean McVay has coordinated some pretty efficient offenses in his five years as an NFL head coach. Heck, he helped Jared Goff orchestrate a Super Bowl run.

So when the impossible happened, and the Rams and Lions swapped former No. 1 overall picks, expectations for LA’s offense understandably burst through the roof. But how good has Stafford been, and how much does the offense and the receivers elevate him?

Matthew Stafford All-22 Film Review: No mental leash necessary

By now, we’ve all heard the story of how Bill Belichick and New England’s defense took advantage of McVay and Goff in Super Bowl LII. This will be more difficult with Stafford slinging the pill because he doesn’t need McVay to hold his hand.

This seems like a simple pitch and catch — and to a degree, it is. However, what makes this play a bit different is how the ball is delivered to this spot in the first place.

The Rams are in a 3 x 1 set with backside receiver Van Jefferson outside the numbers. Across from him, the cornerback is in press coverage with outside leverage. Stafford knows pre-snap that he wants the backside in-breaking route, but he needs to make sure the dropping linebackers don’t occupy the space he wants to attack.

Even if this were man coverage, it would be difficult for the cornerback to trail and defend Jefferson at the catch point. That’s due to the CB’s outside leverage; a tell that Tampa Bay is in zone coverage with two-high safeties. The Apex defender (slot) on the top side blitzes, and the two linebackers shoot out to their hook responsibilities.

Stafford’s eyes start left to ensure the linebackers remain toward the strength of the formation, which opens the area by the backside hashes. It’s simple eye manipulation, but it’s something that younger quarterbacks often struggle with.

Anticipation

This is where veteran processing of a defender’s leverage and mass amounts of arm strength comes in handy. There’s a lot going on in the general area Stafford wants to attack.

 

Cooper Kupp is attempting to run off the safeties and isn’t part of the progression. Tyler Higbee is running a stop route underneath to occupy the second-level defender. Stafford either sees that the defender is flat-footed or has unbelievable trust that he can skirt this pass overtop him to Robert Woods.

Stafford throws this pass well before Woods is anywhere near the area where the ball ends up. As he loads, that second-level defender drives down on Higbee. Mike Edwards isn’t able to click and close quickly enough, and the result is a completion.

Off-script work

It’s not always pretty, and one of these throws might turn into a pick-six if Stafford isn’t careful. But off-script plays provide easy yards as an extension of the run game.

These plays go by a million different names, but I prefer the term “now.” In this particular situation, the Rams must have realized the Bucs like to bring their cornerback on a blitz when aligned in press coverage to the boundary.

This is a run play. But when Stafford sees the blitz, he knows the safety cannot rotate fast enough to break up a pass. Plus, the linebackers are occupied by the run action of the offensive line.

Stafford has done this a few times so far in 2021. These plays might not look great because although he can create, Stafford is not the most flexible on these types of throws.

Many times, these passes come against teams trying to play their cornerbacks at depth. Depending on alignment, the receiver can run a quick stop route, a “now” route, a slant, or a quick out.

Stafford’s big-play ability

This is just an excellent example of a quarterback easily making a play at depth.

From 2018-2020, 28 quarterbacks attempted at least 1,000 passes. During that time, Goff averaged 7.8 air yards per attempt, which ranked 20th in the NFL. Despite that, he completed 0.3% fewer passes than expected, which was good for only 23rd in the league.

Stafford ranked lower during that time, but he wasn’t throwing to Kupp, Woods, Higbee, or Jefferson. He also didn’t have McVay scheming to make things easier for him.

Through three games in 2021, Stafford is completing 1.4% of his passes over expectation. He’s also averaging 8.7 air yards, meaning the offense is more explosive.

The offense is still king

It’s essential to separate the individual performance of a quarterback from the factors — supporting cast, offensive scheme — that contribute to their success. Pro Football Network’s Offensive Value Metric attempts to do just that.

Now, it’s important to note that OVM does not try to quantify a player’s talent level. It simply attempts to measure how responsible the player is for his individual production compared to how much his surroundings aid him.

Stafford currently ranks 14th in the league in OVM. Meanwhile, he’s second only to Teddy Bridgewater in Expected Points Added. However, Stafford ranks just 19th in completion percentage over expectation (CPOE), and it’s impossible to argue that Kupp hasn’t helped propel LA’s passing attack with his run-after-catch ability.

Stafford is a stud, but of the four quarterbacks I studied this week (including Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert, and Derek Carr), he’s the one that impressed me the least during the All-22 film reviews. That is not meant to discount Stafford at all, as he’s played like a top-10 quarterback in 2021. But McVay, the Rams’ scheme, and Stafford’s supporting cast deserve credit, as well.

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