Matthew Stafford has gone through coaching and coordinator changes during his NFL career, but this offseason presents a new challenge for the veteran quarterback. Not only will he have a different head coach and offensive coordinator, but this will be his first year on a team not named the Detroit Lions.
The Rams’ new quarterback has worked hard to get up to speed in Los Angeles, learning the ins and outs of Sean McVay’s offense. He looked good in OTAs and minicamp, and both his coaches and teammates have raved about his game, but training camp is when things really heat up.
Stafford arrived at UC Irvine on Sunday and met with members of the media, his first press conference of camp. And as comfortable as he feels in McVay’s scheme right now, he isn’t afraid to admit there’s still a lot for him to learn.
“I felt pretty good. I definitely have a lot to learn and still can continue to get better within the offense. I think that’s everybody in this league,” he said. “The second you start thinking you’ve got it all figured out, you know it’s not that way. So, I definitely know it’s going to be a process to really feel as comfortable as I want to feel in the offense, but having the spring that we did definitely helped me out. Had I not had that coming straight into a training camp, would have been a much bigger challenge – not to say there isn’t one in front of me right now.”
Spring practices were more about concepts and installment than they were about actually competing on the field. Yes, Stafford threw some passes, but players weren’t wearing pads and not every drill was run at full speed.
That will change in training camp where the competition is kicked up a notch as the pads go on and 11-on-11 drills take center stage.
“Now it’s football. There are no rules to it as far as what we’re going to do,” Stafford said. “Structure-wise, we’re just going to go out there and have training camp and we get to practice. And there’ll be bumps along the road, there’s no question about that – both for me and for our team. We just have to make sure that our head’s on straight, keep the goal in sight and just try to get better every day.”
Stafford didn’t spend the last month and a half binging shows on TV and exploring his new city. Like just about every other player, he worked out and trained in advance of training camp opening.
He says he threw with a bunch of players this summer, getting to know them and working with them on the field. Stafford didn’t specify which players he threw with, but building chemistry with the likes of Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Van Jefferson and DeSean Jackson will be crucial.
“Yeah, it was great, threw a bunch with some guys. The great thing about Southern California (is that) people want to be here and it’s easy to get guys to come back,” Stafford said. “So, it was cool. It was great to get the opportunity to get out there and throw with some of the guys. Those sessions don’t mean that we’re going to go out there and light the world on fire when we throw it, but it gives us a little bit of a baseline on what they expect from me and what I expect from them. It’s been good.”
Assuming Stafford doesn’t play in the preseason, the next month of practices will be extremely important for him and the Rams’ other skill players – especially when they hold joint practices with the Raiders and Cowboys.
That will be the best measuring stick for this offense as Week 1 approaches.