Stats show how Sean McVay has changed Rams’ offense under Matthew Stafford

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There was always going to be a philosophy shift and play-calling change in Los Angeles when the Rams acquired Matthew Stafford. He’s a completely different quarterback than Jared Goff, boasting a big arm and the willingness to take shots downfield.

Goff had become more conservative, which led to an increased number of short passes, check-downs and basic play designs to cater to his skill set. Sean McVay worked all offseason to adapt his offense to Stafford’s more aggressive style, and it’s worked beautifully through three weeks.

The stats show how McVay has changed the Rams offense to suit Stafford’s skill set, and it has involved more empty backfields, less play action and an increased number of spread formations.

According to Next Gen Stats, the Rams have run play action on only 25% of Stafford’s dropbacks, which is right in the middle of the league at No. 16. For the last four years, the Rams ranked first in play-action percentage.

They’ve also gone with empty sets 21% of the time, leaving Stafford alone in the backfield. That’s the highest rate in the NFL after ranking fourth from 2017-2020. And now that they’re running more out of the shotgun, the Rams are using that set more frequently. Stafford has been in the gun 52% of the time, 11% more than Goff was in the last four years.

McVay doesn’t feel the need to utilize play action so heavily anymore with Stafford as his quarterback. The Rams don’t need to fake linebackers and safeties out with play action in order to have success throwing the ball.

Against the Bucs, they used play action just three times on Stafford’s 39 pass attempts, according to PFF’s Seth Galina.

Stafford has still been great when the Rams have used play action, to the surprise of no one. It’s always been a strength of his. According to PFF, he is 18-for-21 with 294 yards and two touchdowns, with a 94.1 grade on play action – second-best in the NFL. On throws without play action, he is 48-for-73 with 646 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception, per PFF. His grade without play action is 71.0, 22nd among all quarterbacks.

Obviously, you can’t run play action if there is no one in the backfield with the quarterback, but that’s no problem for Stafford. He’s thriving in empty sets, leading the NFL in just about every key statistic.

And the fact that he’s only been pressured once on 34 dropbacks in empty formations is a testament to the job the offensive line is doing.

McVay will continue to mold his scheme around Stafford’s best traits, and after seeing how well he’s played off of play action, it’s possible he’ll incorporate more of that moving forward. But for now, just about everything he’s called has worked with the new quarterback.

Gone are the days when the Rams couldn’t call deep shots or long-developing plays. The offensive line is holding up, Stafford is seeing the field exceptionally well and his receivers are getting open at all levels of the field. This offense is humming right now.