LA Rams Bobby Wagner’s swag helped hold team together in 2023

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams struggled to defend the middle of the defense for many years in the past. Well, used to struggle. It appears as though that changed with the arrival of the veteran inside linebacker Bobby Wagner. We know that he can defend the run, but the jury is out over his pass defense. But pass defense is both pass coverage and getting after the quarterback.

In practice, the first signs of solid pass defense from the veteran backer showed up. Wagner intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. Wagner was simply flexing his muscles, giving a sneak preview into all of the qualities that he brings to his defense.

Unfortunately, the rest of the Rams roster could not keep up with his level of play. Or his durability.

Initially, I was disappointed for veteran Bobby Wagner. He boarded the ship after the LA Rams pulled away from their NFL Championship, and were at no time in the 2022 NFL season even slightly resembling that team.  But then, I began to consider just how bad the team might have been without him.

Foundation for sound defense intact

The LA Rams’ defense of 2022 was certainly not the same defense. This was a different formula altogether, and that change upset many fans as it did not meet their expectations. But this was a defense that was not as bad as some would have you believe.

The Rams allowed 3.8 yards per carry and .75 rushing touchdowns per game in 2020. That jumped to 4.0 yards per carry and 1.1 rushing touchdowns per game in 2021. But by 2022, the Rams allowed 4.3 yards per carry and .70 rushing touchdowns per game. In short, the Rams tightened up on allowing scores.

Conversely, the Rams allowed 190.7 yards per game, 1.1 passing touchdowns, and .93 interceptions per game in 2020. That jumped to 241.7 yards per game, 1.0 passing touchdowns, and 1.1 interceptions per game in 2021. In 2022, that dropped to 226.0 yards per game, 1.35 passing touchdowns, and .96 interceptions per game.

This was a year in which plenty of players have every reason to shut down mentally and think about playing it safe. That is never going to happen because Bobby Wagner not only leads, but he inspires, everyone on the Rams roster to play their best.

Can the Rams reform a more effective defense? Truth be told, this was not a bad defense. It was missing Aaron Donald for six games, A’Shawn Robinson for seven games, and a host of defensive backs throughout the course of the season. But this is not simply a matter of getting healthy. The Rams need to have a plan. And I think they are going to come back in 2023 better than ever.

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