The Los Angeles Rams have begun preparations for Sunday’s NFC West opener against the Arizona Cardinals. The Rams’ linebacker Bobby Wagner is trusted by the team to keep an eye on the Cardinals’ quarterback Kyler Murray.
“Really, it’s just up to us as a front and coverage all working together to make sure he doesn’t scramble like that,” Wagner said.
Wagner and Murray were teammates on the Seattle Seahawks, so the Rams will take advantage of Wagner’s familiarity with Murray to disrupt his movement in the upcoming game.
The Rams’ head coach Sean McVay has seen plenty of Murray over the previous three seasons. Murray’s improbable escape act as part of the comeback win against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday reminded McVay that Murray is a special player. The Cardinals’ quarterback darted across the field for 20 seconds before sprinting into the end zone to lead Arizona to a 29-23 victory in Las Vegas.
“This guy (Murray), the play is never over with this guy,” McVay said.
Murray has met the Rams seven times. In the regular season, the Rams are 5-1 over Murray and defeated him 34-11 in the wild-card round in January. Murray has thrown eight interceptions and five touchdowns in those six losses. Murray’s efficiency in the 37-20 win in Week 4 last season was the polar opposite of that, as he went 24-of-32 for 268 yards and two touchdown passes.
Los Angeles has largely limited Murray’s ability to run, allowing him 152 yards and a touchdown on 28 attempts. Wagner is still concerned about Murray’s mobility, which can occur itself in a variety of ways.
“I think if you let him (Murray) kind of run around and make crazy plays, come off your guys, not only does he do that well but the team ignites off plays like that, so we definitely have to limit those opportunities for him,” Wagner said.
McVay is concerned in the same way that Wagner is. He needs to be aware of Murray’s ability to find receivers down the field while moving.
“He’s a very, very special player and somebody that we have to account for,” the head coach said. “It’s definitely something that our guys are excited about, but it’s a great challenge, without a doubt.”
Wagner will be able to apply his previous experience to the test Murray presents in Sunday’s game. In four games against Murray with the Seahawks, he recorded 43 tackles, three tackles for loss, and one sack for the tie.
Wagner in Los Angeles
Wagner’s priority when his 10-year career with the Seahawks ended this offseason was to stay on the West Coast and be close to his family. He said that staying in the division was a bonus with the five-year contract he signed with Los Angeles. Wagner’s move to the Rams proved fruitful. In his first two games with the Rams, he has seven tackles and one sack.
“But it is nice to know teams that you’ve played throughout your whole career,” the 32-years-old linebacker said. “They haven’t really changed much, and I get to play against them in a different defense so it’ll be new to them.”
According to Rams defensive tackle Greg Gaines, both Wagner, and the defense will improve as they become more comfortable with each other, especially after division games against the Cardinals, where there is already a high level of familiarity to build on.
“I think he’s integrated super well,” Gaines said about Wagner. “He’s got obviously a lot of experience, which gives him a commanding presence, and he’s our play caller in the huddle so I think he just fits in really well.”