Revenge games are an incredible motivator for a player facing his long-time franchise for the first time as an opponent. Linebacker Bobby Wagner is playing the first revenge game of his storied career in Week 13 when his L.A. Rams host the Seattle Seahawks, and Hall of Famer Rod Woodson has insights for Wagner ahead of that meeting.
When we’re talking Rams Defense and some of their expectations, this was a defensive team that— the year before they won the Super Bowl—was number one in the league. That team’s defensive coordinator, Brandon Staley, left to become head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, and the Rams slipped to 17th last year. By the way, Staley’s team was 23rd last season.
The reality is that coming off a Super Bowl can sometimes be the hardest thing to repeat.
Learning From History
I remember in 2003 after I won the Super Bowl with the Bucs, we felt like we were on cloud nine as a defense. Nobody could beat us. If you choose to go look it up, we played the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football, and that’s when we started to show some of our weaknesses. We really weren’t as good as we thought we were.
Was that because of hubris—expecting people to lay down for us?
Who knows what it is?
It’s hard to repeat. It’s hard to do over what you’ve just done.
Previewing the Defense
If you look at this Los Angeles Rams team, it starts up front. They’re very similar to some of the other great defenses in the league right now. They run a hybrid 3-4 defensive system under coordinator Raheem Morris.
It obviously starts up front with Aaron Donald, who is more or less an interior defensive end or three-technique defensive tackle at times. Yes, they lost Von Miller, but they still have Leonard Floyd, who packed in 9.5 sacks last year.
The 9.5 sacks that Von Miller gave, collectively, to two teams are going to be missed. He had two sacks in the Super Bowl.
The Rams have two guys now in Justin Hollins and Terrell Lewis who, in five collective seasons, have a total of 11 sacks.
Now they have some young guys, and that’s going to take some of their draft picks hopefully finding production. This is a team that had 50 sacks last year. That really helped their secondary.
One guy they are going to miss is Darious Williams. He went to Jacksonville, and behind him the Rams don’t have really any experience. It’s young, REAL YOUNG. Rookies and second-year guys! David Long Jr. will probably get to start at outside corner, and they do bring back Troy Hill, who was much better in LA than he was in Cleveland last season. So that will help their secondary.
The biggest addition on defense for me is Bobby Wagner. He’ll get to play alongside Ernest Jones, who I think had a really good rookie year. This defense can evolve because of Bobby Wagner. He is a 140 tackle per year guy, he can play every single down, and that expectation and leadership he brings to the defense can help them bounce back and be a repeat type of team.
We obviously know what the Rams are going to do on offense. If the health of the quarterback is good, if Matthew Stafford’s elbow is good, I don’t see the Rams slowing down on that side of the ball.
But this defense? I think Raheem Morris is going to have to get them to play at a higher level if they are going to repeat. There are a lot of things going against you when you’re a Super Bowl champion. Everybody is gunning for you and you have the toughest schedule.
Defense has to win for them this year.