Rams’ Brandon Staley is preparing to stop Packers’ Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers announced Tuesday that during the offseason he will be a guest host on the television show “Jeopardy!”
If the Rams had a say, Rodgers might present a clue on the quiz show that reads: “This defensive coordinator stifled the top-seeded Packers in a 2020 NFC divisional-round playoff game.”
The correct response: Who is Brandon Staley?
This week, as the Rams prepare for Saturday’s game at Lambeau Field, Staley is scheming to figure out ways to make the answer a reality by confusing a quarterback who has seen it all.
Rodgers, a 16th-year pro and certain Hall of Famer, has passed for 48 touchdowns with five interceptions.
“Aaron’s probably going to win his third MVP this year — rightfully so,” Staley said Tuesday during a videoconference with reporters.
Staley, 38, oversees a defense that finished the regular season ranked first in the NFL in fewest yards and few points given up. Star tackle Aaron Donald suffered a rib injury during the Rams’ 30-20 wild-card victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday, but he is expected to play against the Packers. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey leads the secondary.
“This is a legit, real-deal defense,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur, the Rams’ offensive coordinator in 2017, said during a videoconference.
Nate Burleson talks about how the NFL worked on the Nickelodeon channel during the New Orleans Saints-Chicago Bears game.
A day after the victory over the Seahawks, Staley interviewed with the Chargers and the New York Jets for their head coach jobs.
“Had two really great visits with the Chargers and the Jets,” Staley said. “Humbled … to be considered for a position like that in this league. An exciting opportunity to compete and meet with those teams.
“And then, as soon as those interviews were over, you get right back to work on Green Bay.”
Staley’s main challenge: neutralizing Rodgers.
The Packers led the league in scoring, averaging 31. 8 points a game en route to a 13-3 record and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Before Rams coach Sean McVay hired Staley to replace Wade Phillips, Staley worked under coordinator Vic Fangio as the Chicago Bears’ outside linebackers coach in 2017 and 2018. The Bears were 1-3 against the Packers in NFC North games. Staley also helped scheme against Rodgers last season as part of Fangio’s Denver Broncos staff. The Packers defeated the Broncos 27-16.
So Staley is familiar with Rodgers. And Rodgers is familiar with Staley.
“Coach Staley’s done a really nice job,” Rodgers said during a videoconference with Green Bay reporters. “It’s fun to see the young coaches coming up. ... Guys getting opportunities and getting a chance to put their stamp on systems they’ve been in.”
Rodgers knows that Staley and the Rams’ defense will attempt to confuse him.
“I’ve seen a lot of looks over the years,” he said. “This is definitely unique in some ways. …. Just got to go out, trust your instincts, trust what you’ve seen during the week and be ready to react.”
Rodgers most often looks for receiver Davante Adams. The seventh-year pro caught 115 passes, 18 for touchdowns.
Rodgers’ savvy, quick release, arm strength and mobility make him difficult to defend. But Adams said he also makes teammates better by simplifying situations and relieving pressure they might be feeling.
“Just reminding them that they’ve been doing it their whole life,” Adams said. “I’ve literally seen, it’s been visible where you can kind of see a weight come off of a guy’s shoulder in the huddle just from hearing that from Aaron…. Just comfortability, you know, ‘I’ve been here and just follow my lead.’”
Asked if he has sleepless nights preparing for Rodgers, Staley said it cuts both ways.
The weather could play a factor for the Rams when they travel to Lambeau Field this Saturday for their NFC divisional-round game against the Green Bay Packers.
“You either lose sleep, or you fall asleep right away because you’re just so tired,” Staley said.
Rodgers’ talent goes beyond his talent as a passer.
“He’s got an incredible awareness of all 22 guys on the field,” Staley said. “He’s aware of your sideline. He’s aware of the officials. He has full command over what’s happening on the field and that’s what truly makes him special.
“It’s something that requires all of us working as a team in order to compete against him, because he does bring that element to the table.”
The Rams did not practice, but they held a walkthrough. On the injury report, which is regarded as projection had the Rams practiced, quarterback Jared Goff (thumb) was listed as a full participant and quarterback John Wolford (neck) was listed as a non-participant. What would McVay have to see from Wolford to consider playing him? “The first thing is relying on the doctors to get their feedback. Is this even a possibility? Then we’ll take it from there.” Donald (rib) and receiver Cooper Kupp also were listed as non-participants. The Rams are scheduled to practice Wednesday…. McVay on Donald’s status: “Unless something unforeseen happens, the Terminator will be ready.”
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