Five spot: Why Rams defense trusts John Wolford

L.A. believes Wake Forest product has what it takes to lead

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Some news and notes on the Los Angeles Rams as they face the Arizona Cardinals in the final game of the season, looking for a win so they can continue on into the playoffs.

1. Standout L.A. defensive Aaron Donald watched backup quarterback John Wolford run the scout team offense in practice, going against his defense during training camp and all through the regular season.

Donald has seen Wolford’s daily routines, his attention to detail and willingness to put in the extra work and preparation. Because of that combination of Wolford’s play against the first-team defense this year and his work ethic off it, Donald says Wolford is ready for his first NFL start.

“I’ve been a fan of his, honestly,” Donald said. “Just his preparation, just watching him work and the routines he goes through every single day, you would think he’s the starting quarterback already, honestly. He’s got his routines he does every day, warming up before practice. And again, I believe that hard works pays off. And I’ve seen him work.

“I’ve seen during the bye week when I’m walking to my car about the leave, he’s walking out to the field with a helmet and shoulder pads, holding a football and spinning it in his hands saying, ‘All right AD, see you later.’ He’s getting his opportunity to step up and play a huge role to help us win this game. And I’m confident. Like I said, the abilities that he has that I’ve seen through camp, through practice. And the way he prepares and gets himself ready, there’s no doubt in my mind this guy is going to go out there, play at a high level and do what he needs to do help them team win.”

Donald is not alone. The other Pro Bowler on the defense, Jalen Ramsey voiced a similar opinion.

Yes, Donald and Ramsey know the defense has to play well on Sunday because the Rams are down a handful of starters. But they also believe Wolford can get the job done.

“We do have confidence in John,” Ramsey said. “I’m excited that he’s going to get his opportunity. We have seen how he works because he’s been the quarterback going against the first-team defense all year. So that’s exciting as well. I think he’s had a good week of practice, and I hope it continues and carries over to the game.”

2. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our country and has taken its toll on Rams this week, but the NFL made it through the season.

Receiver Cooper Kupp and defensive lineman Michael Brockers will miss Sunday’s game because they remain on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Safety Nick Scott and offensive lineman Bobby Evans missed L.A.’s Week 15 contest against the New York Jets because they were on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Rams head coach Sean McVay understands dealing with these situations is part of playing an NFL season during a global pandemic. The Rams have gotten through the year better than most teams, and will have to figure out a way to win a game on Sunday under adverse circumstances.

“I don’t know if you want to say surprised, but I’ve just been impressed with the amount of work that's gone on,” McVay said, when asked if he was surprised the league made it to Week 17. “Especially, when you see, like I’ve mentioned before, how volatile it is when it hits. You’ve seen some of the other teams that have had really tough situations where it really gets through your building.

“But fortunately for us, the ones that we’ve had, while they’ve been tough, it hasn’t been something that’s monumental where it goes through a bunch of people at once. I think it is a real credit to some of the protocols and I think the flexibility that’s been ongoing by the league and all 32 teams. We’ve had to move a couple of games, but to not miss any. Now here we are in Week 17. It’s amazing, it really is.”

3. Defensive end Leonard Floyd is questionable for Sunday’s game due to an abdominal issue he had to be taken to the hospital for on Friday. However, Floyd said via twitter that he plans on playing today.

Overall, the Georgia product has played well. He signed a one-year, $10 million prove-it deal in free agency with the Rams this offseason. And he’s outplayed the contract.

In 15 starts, Floyd has 48 combined tackles, 9.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and a pass breakup.

Floyd’s been stout against the run, one of the reasons the Rams have one of the best run defenses in the NFL. And he’s also fit in well with Donald and the rest of the defense.

"Yes, we would like to,” McVay said, when asked if he would like Floyd back on a new deal. “Those are definitely things that we will visit. I know our focus is on this one, but I think the answer is absolutely yes."

4. They said it: “This team’s beaten us seven times in a row, so there won’t be any sort of overlooking what they’re capable of, or how many points they can score. I mean, it’s a tremendous coaching staff, tremendous roster. We’ll have our hands full.” – Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury on facing an undermanned Rams squad.

5. Did you know: Robert Woods needs 100 receiving yards today to post a 1,000 receiving yard season for a third straight year. Woods currently has 86 receptions for 900 receiving yards and eight total touchdowns through 15 games.