Second chapter: Bobby Wagner already makes impact on LA Rams

Aug 12, 2022, 12:43 AM | Updated: 2:08 pm
Los Angeles Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner chats with linebacker Ernest Jones during NFL football pra...

Los Angeles Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner chats with linebacker Ernest Jones during NFL football practice Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in Irvine, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

(AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

              Los Angeles Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner works on a drill during NFL football practice Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in Irvine, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
              Los Angeles Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner (45) and tight end Kendall Blanton (86) participate in drills at the NFL football team's practice facility in Irvine, Calif. Monday, Aug. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
              Los Angeles Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner runs during NFL football practice Monday, July 25, 2022, in Irvine, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
              Los Angeles Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner signs autographs during an NFL football practice Saturday, July 30, 2022, in Irvine, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
              Los Angeles Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner pauses during NFL football training camp in Irvine, Calif., Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
              Los Angeles Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner chats with linebacker Ernest Jones during NFL football practice Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in Irvine, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

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

After five years of trying to shut down McVay’s offense two or three times per season for the Seattle Seahawks, Wagner is now making the Los Angeles Rams better.

Instead of attempting to get into McVay’s head to anticipate his moves, the veteran linebacker and the offense-minded coach are putting their heads together.

“Now we get to feed off one another,” Wagner said. “His energy has been crazy. We’ve been in constant communication, even in the offseason. Reaching out, just checking in and stuff like that. It’s been cool. These last couple of months, being able to be coached by him has been a blessing for sure.”

The Rams signed the 32-year-old Wagner to be the game-changing inside linebacker they’ve decidedly lacked in recent years. But the defending Super Bowl champions also signed the six-time All-Pro for the impact he’ll have across the organization, and the signs are already showing as the Rams head into their preseason opener against the Chargers on Saturday night.

Practically every player in a horned helmet speaks rhapsodically about Wagner’s impact on their work habits and football intelligence, but they also can’t wait to see the impact he’ll have on Sundays.

“You go back and watch the plays (at practice), and you’ve just got a smile on your face,” Aaron Donald said. “I might 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, definitely gets us excited.”

The Rams didn’t sign Wagner specifically to teach Ernest Jones how to be a great inside linebacker, yet Jones sometimes feels as if he hit the football lottery. He’ll spend his second NFL season lining up next to one of his idols — and then picking his brain afterward.

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

Wagner will have the green dot on his helmet as the Rams’ defensive signal-caller, and he has already assumed a natural leadership role beyond barking out signals: He’s a sounding board for his teammates and an example to watch every day in practice.

Jones frequently finds himself admiring Wagner’s nose for the ball and knack for positioning.

“That’s like every day, even when I’m watching film and he makes the plays that the normal linebacker wouldn’t make,” Jones said. “The average one wouldn’t, but he goes out there and does it so well. Every time I see that, I’m like, ‘That’s the reason why his name is so well-known, and why he’s Bobby Wagner.'”

Before Wagner’s arrival, McVay’s Rams appeared to pay little mind to the impact of an inside linebacker. Cory Littleton had two productive seasons at the spot, but Los Angeles has otherwise fielded modest contributors at the position. Opponents noticed, targeting the likes of Troy Reeder, Kenny Young and Micah Kiser in recent years, particularly on pass plays.

But the Rams drafted Jones in the third round last year and fast-tracked him to a starting spot, particularly after he showed solid pass coverage abilities. When Wagner was dropped by Seattle and the Rams found themselves with cap room from Von Miller’s departure for Buffalo, they signed him in a move that signaled a change in philosophy at the position.

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

Wagner has made it clear he never wanted to leave Seattle, but the benefits of moving home are already obvious. Wagner was born in Los Angeles and raised in its outer suburbs, and his family members were regular presences at the Rams’ training camp in Irvine.

Wagner already appears comfortable with his new team, and the rest of the Rams are grateful he has embraced a late-career change of scenery. Outside linebacker Terrell Lewis also grew up idolizing Wagner, but he already learned his new teammate is here to work on winning a second ring — and not to reminisce about the Legion of Boom or any past glories.

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

“I grew up watching him. I used to tease him when he first got here to the point where he’s like, ‘Bro, chill out with that.’ I used to say ‘L.O.B.!’ And he would be like, ‘Man, chill out. That’s old, that’s old.'”


More AP NFL: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]
28 days ago
Joe Jarzynka...
Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]
28 days ago
FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...
Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]
28 days ago
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...
Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]
28 days ago
FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...
Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]
28 days ago
FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...
Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]
28 days ago
Second chapter: Bobby Wagner already makes impact on LA Rams