Chapter two: Bobby Wagner is already having an impact on LA Rams

IRVINE, Calif. (AP) — Bobby Wagner is still getting used to the fact that he’s now working with Sean McVay, not against him.

After five years of trying to end McVay’s offense two or three times a season for the Seattle Seahawks, Wagner is now improving the Los Angeles Rams.

Instead of trying to get inside McVay’s head to anticipate his moves, the veteran linebacker and the offensive-minded coach go to each other.

“Now we can feed each other,” Wagner said. “His energy has been insane. We’ve been in constant communication, even during the offseason. Reaching out, just checking in and stuff like that. It was cool. For the past few months, being coached by him has been a blessing, that’s for sure.

The Rams signed Wagner, 32, to be the breakthrough inside linebacker they’ve been sorely lacking in recent years. But the defending Super Bowl champions also signed the six-time All-Pro for the impact he will have on the organization, and the signs are already showing as the Rams head into their pre-season opener. season against the Chargers on Saturday night.

Virtually every player wearing a horned helmet speaks enthusiastically of the impact Wagner has had on their work habits and football intelligence, but they’re also eager to see the impact he will have on Sunday.

“You come back and watch the games (in training), and you just have a smile on your face,” Aaron Donald said. “I could jump on my gap and then he’s there to feel it so fast, because he’s just downhill. He understands where things are going and he’s able to play so much faster. Just seeing the way he moves, the way he plays, it really excites us. »

The Rams didn’t sign Wagner specifically to teach Ernest Jones how to be a great inside linebacker, but Jones feels like he’s hit the football lottery at times. He will spend his second season in the NFL lining up next to one of his idols and then picking his brains afterward.

“It’s crazy that he’s playing with us now and learning from him, because he was like the guy I always looked up to,” Jones said.

Wagner will have the green dot on his helmet as the Rams’ defensive signalman, and he’s already taken on a natural leadership role beyond signal barking: he’s a sounding board for his teammates and an example for all to watch. days in training.

Jones often finds himself admiring Wagner’s nose for the ball and his talent for positioning.

“It’s like everyday, even when I watch a movie and he makes plays that the normal linebacker wouldn’t,” Jones said. “The average wouldn’t do it, but he goes out there and does it so well. Every time I see that I’m like, ‘That’s why his name is so well known and why his name is Bobby Wagner.”

Prior to Wagner’s arrival, McVay’s Rams seemed to ignore the impact of an inside linebacker. Cory Littleton has had two productive seasons on the spot, but Los Angeles has otherwise fielded modest contributors to the position. Opponents have taken notice, targeting Troy Reeder, Kenny Young and Micah Kiser in recent years, especially on passing.

But the Rams drafted Jones in the third round last year and accelerated him to a starting spot, especially after showing solid pass coverage abilities. When Wagner was dropped by Seattle and the Rams found themselves with cap room since Von Miller left for Buffalo, they signed him in a move that signaled a shift in philosophy at the position.

At least that’s the hint: How defensive coordinator Raheem Morris will use both Wagner and Jones is a question that won’t be answered until September. But their presence gives the Rams several new options, as they fit two inside linebackers into the defensive scheme installed by Brandon Staley and honed by Morris in a championship-winning setup last season.

Wagner has made it clear he never wanted to leave Seattle, but the benefits of a move are already evident. Wagner was born in Los Angeles and raised in its suburbs, and his family members were regular attendees at Rams training camp in Irvine.

Wagner already seems comfortable with his new team, and the rest of the Rams are grateful he embraced a career-ending change of scenery. Outside linebacker Terrell Lewis also grew up idolizing Wagner, but he’s already learned that his new teammate is there to work to earn a second ring — not to reminisce about Boom Legion or past glories.

“I talk to Bobby a lot, about how he takes care of his body and the things I’ve seen in his career,” said Lewis, who has endured numerous injury issues during his career. two seasons.

“I grew up watching him. I used to tease him when he first came here to the point where he was like, ‘Bro, relax with that.’ I used to say ‘LOB!’ And he was like, ‘Man, relax. This is old, this is old.’

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