Fresh off one of the deepest-buried quarterback benches in the league comes something so mysterious, fans are splitting. The Los Angeles Rams are set to unleash what some hopeful Rams fans have already affectionately dubbed, The Wolfman. Limited footage reveals turf movement unlike any seen in recent years around these parts. But seriously, folks. John Wolford will be making his NFL regular-season debut Sunday against the also-suspect Arizona Cardinals.
Some think he can be the wild card to spark the offense enough to capture a playoff spot. Others reek of fear. It remains to be seen if he resembles such wildlife royalty or if he ultimately goes down as just another lamb led to slaughter in the opposition’s eyes.
Week 17 Wild Card Brawl With Cardinals To Introduce John Wolford
By now, you probably know that the near-invisible and mock Russell Wilson/Lamar Jackson in practices back-up quarterback, John Wolford, is starting Week 17. You might even know that he was a surprising 2018 standout in the brief life of the Alliance of American Football league (AAF). There, he had a league-leading 14 touchdown (with 7 interceptions), passing for 1,617 yards. His 78.4 passer rating was the highest of all AAF quarterbacks while his 79.3 overall PFF rating was just three points shy of the league’s overall leading quarterback, Garrett Gilbert.
You’ve possibly read somewhere or have seen for yourself, this kid is more mobile than what the Rams are used to having in the starting position. Both back-ups are, it’s true. And if you’ve seen his highlights, you know he can also extend plays when the script breaks down. This is as much mental as physical so it’s possible to see more decisive play Sunday with broader vision. This may also account for fewer wasted timeouts to avoid time expiration penalties.
John Wolford Could Be Better Than Almost Everyone Expects
What you most likely don’t know — because none of the high-profile NFL experts know with certainty enough to post on social media — is that Wolford has improved since all of the above. He has worked hard to sharpen his skills, mainly reading defenses pre-snap and ball placement. No doubt, Sean McVay & Company have done all they can to help (outside of benching Jared Goff mid-season).
He impressed the coaches enough to make Blake Bortles expendable last off-season. He has a timing connection with rookie receiver Van Jefferson. Something to keep in mind, especially if Cooper Kupp remains in Covid-19 protocol.
Given his time under contract, one can assume he is now familiar enough with the offensive system to be trusted with game management. However, his talents may allow for coach McVay to be a bit more creative on occasion than he’s been able to be of late. That is, of course and at least in Week 17, unless the Rams dominate throughout. They could then afford to play it safe, unleashing him further in the playoffs.
Arizona Could Counter With a Beast of Their Own… Even if Murray Plays
If, in fact, Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury inadvertently leaked his intentions when responding to local reporters via call that 2020 quarterback addition Chris Streveler is “definitely the back-up,” things could get interesting. Streveler would become the starter if Kyler Murray can’t endure or goes down for other reasons — Murray said Wednesday that he plans to play. The situation is super intriguing regardless because Kingsbury might still choose to include him in the game plan as a utility (or gadget) player.
Streveler comes to the NFL after having paced the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to the Grey Cup championship in Canada’s CFL. He can be a real animal in the ground game and unlike Wolford, I don’t mean by nickname alone. The guy can go full beastmode when he gets a head of steam going.
He’s been called ‘Tim Tebow with an arm,’ and being compared to Taysom Hill of the New Orleans Saints. He runs often and has clocked Hill’s speed range. He’s also caught passes and even tried out for Arizona and the Miami Dolphins as a Hilltype option. The Rams shouldn’t put it pass Kingsbury to throw in the kitchen sink, it’s win or go home for his team. Plus it would certainly take the load off Murray.
The Last Word on the Wild Card Showdown: Preview and Dual-Prediction
In my book, consistent improvement gets noticed big time. John Wolford has gone from his first year at Wake Forest (2014: 2037 yards, 12 touchdowns, 14 interceptions) to his last (2017: 3192 yards, 29 touchdowns, six interceptions) fourth-highest-graded passer, behind only Baker Mayfield, Will Grier, and Justin Herbert. He went on to be one of only two elite-for-the-level quarterbacks in the AAF. Undrafted, goes from lasting ten days with the New York Jets to beating out Bortles in Los Angeles. This feels like significant improvement.
Wolford can throw downfield 40-45 yards comfortably. Since the Rams lack the deep threat of a Brandin Cooks type, there’s a chance he’s an otherwise upgrade. All things, however, remain centered around Sunday’s offensive line play. That said, and provided the event itself doesn’t veer off into the Twilight Zone of Week 15, Rams win, 30-23 with Murray playing, 34-17 without.
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