Rams look and sound ready to defend title

(News4usonline) – Making it back to the Super Bowl for the Los Angeles Rams means staying healthy and navigating a super tough regular season. It also depends on what kind of running game the Rams offense will be able to reproduce to compliment the passing of Matthew Stafford. There is a lot to be said about the Rams and the team’s desire to win back-to-back championships.

When we start with the building or the remake of the Rams from their Super Bowl LVI win against the Cincinnati Bengals, the main core of the team is still intact. It’s a pretty good core with the Rams placing five of their players in the NFL’s Top 100 list with all-world Aaron Donald being touted as the second-best player in the league.

Aaron Donald Los Angeles Rams
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July 29, 2021. Los Angeles Rams defensive star Aaron Donald (99) getting a break during a training camp practice. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

Speaking of Donald, the eight-time Pro Bowler and three-time Defensive Player of the Year has a new running mate this season. Longtime Seattle Seahawks stalwart Bobby Wagner joined the Rams in the offseason, giving the defensive a needed boost with edge rusher Von Miller defecting over to the Buffalo Bills. Wagner gives the Rams a supreme run-stuffer and a do-everything linebacker.

A couple of days before the Rams played Buffalo in the NFL’s and team season opener on Thursday Night Football, Donald said Wagner’s ability to match the opposing quarterback’s playcalling gives the defense a different element when he is on the field.   

“(It) makes us a lot more comfortable knowing he’s behind us, honestly,” Donald said. “So I’ve been saying this since day one, adding a piece like Bobby Wagner to this defense is a big upgrade for us, even though we had some great defenses in the past years. I think we’re a solid defense, man and to add him to the mix makes us that much stronger.”

Donald continued, “Obviously what he can do in the field, but communication-wise, his veteran presence, it’s just been great for us. Just knowing that a guy like that is back there just makes you get much more comfortable knowing everything’s going on behind you the right way.”

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford
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Oct. 24, 2021. Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford had a good day against his former team. Stafford passed for 334 yards and three touchdowns in the Rams’ 28-19 win at SoFI Stadium. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

When the Rams added Miller to the defense last season, the move gave the Rams one of the best edge rushers in NFL history. While Miller made things uncomfortable for quarterbacks from the outside, Donald was able to make a lot of noise in the middle. Without question, Miller was an upgrade to the defensive unit of the Rams. Donald said he learned a lot playing alongside Miller. 

“Yeah, for sure, if anything, we had conversations more about leadership things, being more of a vocal guy,” Donald remarked. “I give a lot of credit…definitely that playoff run, having conversations with Von. I feel like he challenged me with some things as a vocal leader and I stepped in when I needed to.  Always respect and love Von for that. We created some special things so we miss him, but he’s on the opposite side now so he is the enemy.” 

Stafford, the Rams starting quarterback, was once on opposite sides of Donald. After the pair came together last season to give the Rams its second Super Bowl win. The duo get the opportunity to try to do it again. All Stafford did was throw for 4,886 yards and 41 touchdowns during the 2021 regular season.  Stafford, No. 27 on the Top 100 list, passed for an additional 1,18 yards and nine TDs during the postseason.

As he gears up for his sophomore season with the Rams, Stafford knows that defenses around the league will be throwing everything and the kitchen sink at him. The Rams offense will be ready, Stafford said.  

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Oct. 3, 2021. Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson Jr. (27) is on the move against the Arizona Cardinals. Henderson rushed for 89 yards on 14 carries in the Rams’ first defeat of the season. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

“I think we stay in attack mode,” said Stafford.“I think that’s what makes us a really good football team is the ability to attack on offense, defense, special teams, every phase. We play sound football, but we’re going to be attacking, we’re going to be confident. Go out there and as long as we kind of set the tone with the intensity and execution, all the things that we can control, that’s how you move forward.”

With the NFL season now a go, Stafford and the Rams will be moving forward this season with Chicago Bears departed wide receiver Allen Robinson, who is expected to fill the void of the injured Odell Beckham Jr. Speaking of playmakers, wide receiver Cooper Kupp (No. 4) and cornerback Jalen Ramsey (No. 9) give the Rams a mega-talented squad primed for another Super Bowl run.  

The Rams have an opportunity to make history. But they’ll have to take the approach of doing things one game at a time. Top on the priority list is making sure that Stafford, playing in his 14th season, stays upright and well. There was some concern over the status on Stafford’s right elbow during training camp, but now that subject is a wash, according to Rams head coach Sean McVay.

McVay is not worried about what Stafford can and cannot do.

“I’m not. I think we’ve got a really good plan in place, no different than really last year,” McVay said. “These are things that he was kind of working through in his own way, but you always want to be cognizant of a pitch count if you will. But he’s feeling good. I tell you what he’s throwing the ball excellent. He feels good. Everything that I’m seeing is reflective of everything he’s saying to me and so I feel really good about that.”