Rams, Matthew Stafford still sore from seven-sack opener, and now line has to shuffle
Matthew Stafford experienced worse.
In 2018, while playing for the Detroit Lions, Stafford was sacked a career-high 10 times — and hit 17 times — during a loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
So the seven sacks the Rams quarterback took in the season-opening, 31-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills should not faze the 34-year-old as he prepares to play against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
But Stafford’s rebound attempt will come behind a reconfigured offensive line.
With Brian Allen recovering from knee surgery that was performed Friday, Coleman Shelton moves from right guard to center and Tremayne Anchrum will play right guard in his first career start.
The Rams will have two new starters on the offensive line in Week 2, and perhaps three if Joe Noteboom can’t play, after Brian Allen suffered a knee injury.
Stafford also could have a new left tackle protecting his blind side.
Joe Noteboom is nursing a sprained knee ligament. Coach Sean McVay has said he expects Noteboom to recover in time to play against the Falcons, but if Noteboom is sidelined, second-year pro Alaric Jackson will start.
Not an ideal situation for the defending Super Bowl champion Rams after they suffered a beatdown against the Bills.
Lack of protection for Stafford was only one of the issues in a loss that was reminiscent of last seasons’ 28-16 defeat to the Tennessee Titans, a loss that started a three-game losing streak. Stafford was sacked five times, a season high that was equaled in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the regular-season finale.
The Rams’ anemic rushing attack against the Bills — they gained just 52 yards in 18 carries — also must be addressed by McVay and his staff before Sunday.
Shelton, 27, played at Los Angeles Loyola High and in college at Washington before signing with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He also spent time with the Arizona Cardinals before the Rams signed him in 2019.
Last season, Shelton played as a reserve at center and both guard positions. After Allen suffered an injury early in a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Shelton stepped in and helped the Rams end a three-game skid. The next week, he started in a victory over the Cardinals, and he also played most of a late-season victory at Minnesota.
“Last year was kind of just taking advantage of the opportunity,” Shelton said Monday during a videoconference with reporters, “and now I’ve got that experience and I’m able to go out and just have confidence in my play.”
Anchrum, a seventh-round draft pick in 2020, played tackle at Clemson but has trained at tackle and guard with the Rams. The change in positions required “rewiring” his mind to utilize techniques faster and in different ways, he said.
“Inherently, you’re coming off faster, you’re initiating contact, you’re making decisions quicker,” Anchrum said of playing guard. “It’s a lot of thinking, it’s a lot of doing. It’s kind of built off instincts.”
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Jackson played at Iowa and signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2021. Late last season, with left tackle Andrew Whitworth and Noteboom out against the Vikings because of COVID-19, left guard David Edwards started at left tackle and Shelton started at guard.
After Allen suffered a knee injury, Shelton moved to center, Edwards to left guard.
Jackson played 52 snaps at left tackle and did not give up a sack.
“As steady and as even-keel as they come for a rookie,” Stafford said after the game.
The Falcons seemingly are an ideal team for the Rams to play after their embarrassing performance against the Bills.
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Saints quarterback Jameis Winston passed for two touchdowns and set up a field goal that sent the Falcons to a 27-26 loss, ruining quarterback Marcus Mariota’s debut with Atlanta.
The Falcons sacked Winston four times. Lineman Grady Jarrett had 1½ sacks, outside linebacker Arnold Ebiketie and inside linebacker Mykal Walker each added one, and outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter recorded half a sack.
It’s apparently no mystery about what the Rams need to improve as they prepare for Sunday.
“Just got to protect better,” Shelton said. “We got to play as five guys who play together, and we’re just excited for the next week and ready for another opportunity.”
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