The Los Angeles Rams didn’t expect to go 5-12 last season at the time they brought veteran middle linebacker and future hall of famer Bobby Wagner into the fold. Wagner watched LA’s offense fall apart in 2022, and then agreed with the team to mutually part ways. He returned to the Seattle Seahawks this offseason to solidify their run defense as they looked to return to the playoffs.
But Wagner’s former teammate, QB Matthew Stafford, didn’t seem intimidated by seeing Wagner in the middle of Seattle’s defense—instead he looked the veteran’s way often in coverage and found great success. Stafford completed all four attempts for 63 yards (15.8 average) for a passer rating of 118.8, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) tracking data. 24 of those yards came after the catch was made.
When your offseason plan at LB is 75% of Jordyn Brooks and the corpse of Bobby Wagner https://t.co/73TOMGHtfc— Savage (@RW_Savage) September 11, 2023
This video shows every one of WR Tutu Atwell’s catches in Week 1. Around the 20 second mark you can see Stafford layering a pass over Wagner and just in front of the deeper defender.
We’ve seen Sean McVay exploit linebackers in coverage before. Jared Goff’s perfect game against the Minnesota Vikings where LA continually isolated Anthony Barr comes to mind. The Rams didn’t show up Wagner to that degree, but McVay’s ability to dictate advantageous coverage matchups is impressive.
Wagner is still elite at defending the run. The veteran earned a grade in that department of 90.4 and made nine run stops, including a big tackle on Cam Akers on the perimeter for a big loss. It’s clear at this point in his career that he’s best served to play in base defense and should come off the field on obvious passing downs, though Jordyn Brooks is still working his way back from injury and that clouds the rotation.
The Rams will host the Seahawks at SoFi Stadium on November 19th, and Seattle and Wagner will be out for revenge. Los Angeles won’t be able to sneak up on the Seahawks again—and there could be playoff implications late in the season for the second matchup.