Sports

Already sacked seven times, Rams’ Matthew Stafford gets new line

Matthew Stafford has seen worse.

In 2018, while playing for the Detroit Lions, Stafford was sacked 10 times — and hit 17 times — during a loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

The seven sacks the Rams quarterback picked up in the season-opening 10-31 loss to the Buffalo Bills shouldn’t faze the 34-year-old as he prepares to face off at SoFi Stadium on Sunday to play the Atlanta Falcons.

But Stafford’s rebound attempt will come from behind a reconfigured offensive line.

With Brian Allen recovering from knee surgery on Sunday, Coleman Shelton will switch from right-back to center and Tremayne Anchrum will play right-back in his first career start.

Stafford could also have a new left tackle protecting his blind side.

Joe Noteboom has a sprained ligament in his knee. Coach Sean McVay has said he expects Noteboom to recover in time to play the Falcons, but if Noteboom is sidelined then sophomore Alaric Jackson will start.

Not an ideal situation for the defending Super Bowl champion Rams after they took a hit on the Bills.

Lack of protection for Stafford was just one of the problems in a loss reminiscent of last season’s 28-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans, a loss that sparked a three-game losing streak. Stafford was sacked five times, a season high that was equated with a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the regular-season finals.

The Rams’ anemic rushing attack on the Bills — they’ve gained just 52 yards in 18 carries — also needs to be addressed by McVay and his staff before Sunday.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford takes a snap of center Coleman Shelton during camp.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford snapped photos of Coleman Shelton during training camp.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Shelton, 27, played at Los Angeles Loyola High and Washington College 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 in reserve at center and both guard positions. After Allen picked up an early injury in a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Shelton stepped in and helped the Rams end a three-game sled. He started the next week with a win over the Cardinals and also played most of a late-season win in Minnesota.

“Last year I just took the opportunity,” Shelton said Monday during a video conference call with reporters, “and now I have that experience and I can go out there and just have confidence in my game.”

Anchrum, a seventh-round draft pick in 2020, played tackle at Clemson but has coached with the Rams tackle and guard. Changing positions required “rewiring” his mind to use techniques faster and in different ways, he said.

“By nature, you get away faster, you initiate contact, you make decisions faster,” Anchrum said of the guard. “It’s a lot of thinking, it’s a lot of doing. It’s kind of built-up instinct.”

Jackson played in Iowa and signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2021. Late last season, when Andrew Whitworth and Noteboom were out with left tackle against the Vikings due to COVID-19, left guard David Edwards started with left tackle and Shelton with guard.

After Allen suffered a knee injury, Shelton moved to center with Edwards to left guard.

Jackson played 52 snaps in left tackle and didn’t give up a sack.

“As stable and balanced as a rookie should be,” said Stafford after the game.

The Falcons appear to be an ideal team for the Rams after their embarrassing performance against the Bills.

Under second-year coach Arthur Smith, Atlanta took a 16-point lead over New Orleans in the fourth quarter before falling apart.

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 Atlanta debut.

The Falcons have 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 a half sack.

It’s apparently no secret what the Rams need to improve on as they prepare for Sunday.

“I just need to protect myself better,” Shelton said. “We have to play as five guys playing together and we’re just looking forward to next week and ready for another opportunity.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-09-12/rams-matthew-stafford-seven-sacks-injuries-new-offensive-line Already sacked seven times, Rams’ Matthew Stafford gets new line

Emma Bowman

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