Aaron Donald, Bobby Wagner Among Leaders Stepping Up for Los Angeles Rams

From Super Bowl Champions to 3-7 through this season’s first 10 games, 2022 has been a whirlwind for the Los Angeles Rams.

The injury-riddled campaign started with offensive line trouble in training camp and has proceeded to spread throughout the rest of the team, and a 21-point home loss in the season opener to the Buffalo Bills only foreshadowed the year’s unexpected difficulty.

The Rams entered with aspirations of defending their Super Bowl crown, but as losers of six of their last seven, find themselves in danger of becoming the first champion to miss the playoffs the year after since the 2016 Denver Broncos.

But through it all, Los Angeles has been uplifted by its veteran leaders in all three phases, starting with linebacker Bobby Wagner, who’s made a significant impact in his first year with the team.

“I’ve been so pleased with just the consistency; I’ve been so impressed just being around him,” coach Sean McVay said of Wagner. “There are so many guys that have been here, but as you continue to get to know Bobby Wagner, you see his consistency and his steadiness and the influence that he has.”

McVay added two other defenders who’ve made their voices heard – a pair of All-Pros in defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

“Aaron’s work ethic, the way that Jalen positively tries to push these guys when you just look at the defensive side of the ball,” said McVay, on the qualities they’ve instilled.

It’s no surprise that three of Los Angeles’ best defensive players have stood out the most in regard to leadership; the trio of Wagner, Donald and Ramsey know the standard that’s been set and understand what it takes to reach that standard.

The same can be said for several players on the Rams’ previously high-octane offense that’s had a difficult year amidst constant shuffling up front. Right tackle Rob Havenstein has been the lone steady figure on the line, starting all 10 games – and his consistency has been a vital asset as injuries to quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Cooper Kupp knocked two more leaders out of action.

“Offensively, Rob’s ability to try to just be able to positively push that group, especially in the midst of the adversity,” McVay said. “(Tight end) Tyler Higbee’s been another guy that I’ve really been pleased with. Those guys that we’re missing, they’ve made an impact in their own way even though they’re not able to play, when you talk About the Matthew’s and the Cooper’s. But it’s tough when they’re not out there.”

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As for the third phase, McVay said “there’s so many guys on special teams” who’ve stepped up, be it leading vocally or by example.

External factors like injury fortune aren’t always in one’s control, but the ability to lead and persevere is firmly up to the players inside the locker room – and the Rams appear to be in good hands.

Granted, the Super Bowl run proved much of how McVay’s team is wired – but that was then, and this is now, and “now” is an unexpected heap of adversity in which Los Angeles is learning more and more about itself by the week.

But one thing’s for certain: the Rams have plenty of leadership, especially among their best players, and even in what’s been a season to forget, the lessons learned can permeate through Los Angeles for years to come.

You can follow Daniel Flick on Twitter @DFlickDraft

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