The Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams will go head-to-head with the Buffalo Bills on this week as the teams square off at SoFi Stadium on Thursday night. The Rams are finalizing their preparation for what should be the most thrilling matchup of the opening week. The excitement was noted in their post-practice press conferences, as Aaron Donald and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris raved about Bobby Wagner, while offensive coordinator Liam Cohen elatedly detailed Matthew Stafford’s recent practices.
Donald confident in LA’s defensive matchups
“It was a slow start for us, but we found a way to get back in the game. They found a way to win, though. Obviously, got some talented players over there, got some veteran guys on the offensive line, a special quarterback back there that can do it all; strong arm, big body guy that’s mobile, that’s quick, that’s athletic. Got some weapons on the outside. It’s a good team, but I like our matchups.”
The Bills are one of the best teams in the NFL. Josh Allen and the Buffalo offense present a significant early-season test for the Rams defense. It’s nice to know AD hasn’t forgotten what happened the last time these two teams met, with Los Angeles losing 35-32 in Week 3 of the 2020 season.
AD pumped about playing in front of Wagner
“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 and adding him to the mix make us that much stronger. Obviously, you know what he can do on the field. Communication wise, his veteran presence has just been great for us and just knowing a guy like that’s back there just makes you that much more comfortable knowing everything’s going to be handled the right way.”
This defense has all of the ingredients to be truly special. I can’t wait to watch them grow together, starting against such a high-octane offense.
Coach Morris’ first battle against Josh Allen
“Fortunately or unfortunately, however you want to look at it right now, it’s kind of the first time I’ve had the opportunity to play against him. So studying him now, he’s evolved into almost that Ben Roethlisberger type figure... I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Allen lit up the Rams’ defense in their last meeting, passing for 311 yards and adding five total touchdowns, including one on the ground. The Bills’ 35 points were the most allowed by the then Brandon Staley coached defense during the 2020 season. Hopefully, Morris has some tricks up his sleeve to avoid such a showing by the opposing quarterback.
A combined 67 points and 853 total yards the last time the @BuffaloBills & @RamsNFL squared off…— NFL (@NFL) September 3, 2022
: #Kickoff2022 -- Thursday 9/8 at 8:20pm ET on NBC
: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/fK7vaWAizI pic.twitter.com/BvWB5yHeEI
Wagner’s leadership has been on full display
“The first thing popped in my head was ‘the definition of leadership.’ In order to be a great leader, you got to learn the people you’re around and figure out what makes them tick and the things that make them move and he’s absolutely done that... He’s done such a great job of investing in them that now everybody’s invested into what he has to say, and that’s important. I kind of said this earlier in camp but it’s almost like, no disrespect to anybody that we had here with the mic in that helmet, it’s almost at the point where people are not listening because they have to, they’re listening because they want to and it’s a big difference when you go out there and perform.”
That kind of off the field investment into his teammates will certainly pay dividends on the field, à la Stafford and Cooper Kupp’s “breakfast club.” Morris also emphasized Wagner’s noticeable impact on second-year linebacker Ernest Jones.
My brain still hasn’t even processed the fact that Bobby Wagner is playing for the LA Rams this season.— Sosa Kremenjas (@QBsMVP) September 4, 2022
And in 4 days we’ll get to see it on our TV’s. Wild. pic.twitter.com/UxVoD2dSMX
Coach Coen excited about Stafford’s “sharp” practices; quarterback’s elbow just fine
“I think you guys can see. I mean, the last few practices been really sharp. When you see this guy throw, when he’s playing at this level, it’s really special to watch. When you’re back there and you’re just seeing the football the way it does and the way it hits people in stride…The ball placement, the anticipation. Yeah, I don’t know if there are any injuries right now.”
This didn’t come off as coach-speak. Coen seemed almost gleeful about what he has seen out of his quarterback in the team’s last few sessions. LA should feel right at home putting the game on No. 9’s shoulder, and elbow for that matter.
“No hesitation,” Sean McVay said, when I asked him that if he needed Matthew Stafford to throw 50-55 times to win a game, there’d be any hesitation.— Omar Ruiz (@OmarDRuiz) September 4, 2022
The #Rams’ first injury report for Thursday night’s opener lists just one player: WR Van Jefferson (DNP-knee).— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 6, 2022
QB Matthew Stafford, RBs Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr. and CB Jalen Ramsey — who all missed time in camp — are healthy and good to go against the #Bills.
Stafford continues to open passing lanes with his subtle movements in the pocket
“His ability to see windows, understand structures, but also how his movement can now manipulate defenders. It’s really that he sees windows the right way and it all happens post-snap for him. He’s in tuned to the pre-snap process, but you really can’t be too locked into the pre-snap in this league. The way he sees it post-snap absolutely gives you such an edge.”
It sounds like business as usual here. Stafford has been manipulating defense since his days in Detroit. What’s the over/under on no-look passes this season?
Matthew Stafford is just 5 yards away from matching Drew Brees for the fewest games to 50,000 passing yards in #NFL history (183 games).— Jeff Kerr (@JeffKerrCBS) September 5, 2022
Stafford plays in his 183rd game Thursday night. #Rams #RamsHouse pic.twitter.com/uUt1ZCAr5g
Is the offense leaning toward running back by committee?
“I think that’s something we’re going to talk about over the next few days here, is to really kind of get ‘Hey what’s the percentage of guys played, the carries, the reps.’ You get into a game and a lot of times you go with the hot hand.”
Hot hand. I don’t want to hear it. Neither does my fantasy football team. We’ve all heard the Sean McVay and others hint at a group approach at running back. We’ve also seen him follow up those sentiments with treating his lead back as the bell cow. I expect (and hope) for much of the same this season.