Matthew Stafford has had to work with three different players at an integral position of the Los Angeles Rams.
It’s in the heart of the Rams‘ trenches, the center spot.
It’s also one more than what Stafford was working with last season as it was strictly Brian Allen and Coleman Shelton who snapped the ball to Stafford during their Super Bowl run. But now, Allen has been limited to one game, Shelton has dealt with an injury and the Rams were forced to elevate a previously untested Jeremiah Kolone from the practice squad — who got plugged in against a loaded San Francisco 49ers front line.
Kolone has had to man center since then. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s taken 65 snaps in back-to-back games versus the Dallas Cowboys and on Sunday, October 16, the Carolina Panthers. And PFF has given the former undrafted rookie out of San Jose State low grades — calculating him with an 18.0 pass blocking grade after mentioning he allowed four QB pressures his side in the 24-10 win over the Panthers.
However, Stafford was only sacked once…and he’s seen far different production from the 6-foot-3, 316-pounder who was once doing police training before getting the call to join the Rams.
Stafford: Jeremiah Kolone ‘Gets a Little Bit Better’ Each Week
This time, Stafford was held intact and limited in the number of times he got tussled down to the sprint turf at SoFi Stadium. Including the sack, Stafford was physically hit by a Panthers defender a combined four times (three QB hits were delivered on Carolina’s side).
Stafford, though, raved about the play of the first player who gives him the ball every play the last three games.
“I think he’s done a nice job. Every time he gets out there, he gets a little bit better and he gets more comfortable,” Stafford told the L.A. media after the 14-point win.
How has Kolone elevated his level of play given the injury pile-up in the trenches? And facing defenses that featured a concoction of speed, aggressive blitz calls on his side and in the case of the Panthers, a former top-10 pick in Derrick Brown?
“He’s doing a better job of communicating — which is great,” Stafford said. “At the center position, it’s the physical part of getting connected on double teams and pass protecting one-on-one when you get a nose and all that kind of stuff. But really the biggest thing is, how do you communicate down the line with the guys and how do you get started with everyone on the right page and doing all that? And he’s continuing to grow and get better at that. And it’s not an easy thing. It’s a difficult thing.”
There was a time recently when Stafford told Kolone he had to be in his ear as he transitioned to starting center. That was before the Cowboys game.
But following the Sunday win, Kolone played an integral role in limiting the sacks plus also opening up running lanes that hit 111 total rushing yards against Carolina.
Rams Remain Unbeaten in Rare Stat
The Rams improved to 3-0 in a certain category this season.
Of all places, it involves sacks.
Stafford has felt and seen the wave of pressure through the first six games — enduring days and nights of seven sacks or anything past one. And the veteran quarterback is working with an offensive line unit that had to plug in their 10th starting option once left tackle Joe Noteboom went down.
However, the Rams’ closet magic number for sacks allowed is one — because in every game the Rams have won this season they’ve allowed that number.
But along with Alaric Jackson helping keep cat-quick Brian Burns near the line of scrimmage, Rob Havenstein allowing zero pressures and the remaining Ram trenches raising their play, Kolone has seen a rise from what Stafford is witnessing.
“Just happy for him and seeing his progress,” Stafford said.