Might Rams QB John Wolford be a problem for the Cardinals?
Third-string quarterback C.J. Beathard got help from head coach Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers’ run game last week to shock the Arizona Cardinals.
It would certainly shock viewers again if Los Angeles Rams backup quarterback John Wolford does the same to Arizona.
Wolford has yet to throw a pass in an NFL regular season game, but he’ll be the guy Sunday after Rams starter Jared Goff underwent thumb surgery on Monday.
Like it was for Beathard last Sunday, it’s not wild to imagine Wolford gets enough support from his creative head coach to threaten the Cardinals in their must-win season finale. Certainly, he will get more support than when he was in his post-Alliance of American Football career, having to upload his own highlight reel to YouTube.
Backup quarterbacks can be problematic, especially in their debuts.
Among those counting on Wolford is his former Arizona Hotshots head coach, Rick Neuheisel.
“I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t win,” Neuheisel told the Los Angeles Times’ Sam Farmer. “I’m just telling you, Johnny Wolford is going to come through.”
The Cardinals will be scrounging preseason and AAF film this week to prevent such a thing.
Here are some fast facts, highlights and tidbits about the 25-year-old quarterback and private equity analyst.
Wolford has preseason experience
The Rams gave Wolford extensive experience last preseason, and head coach Sean McVay must have liked what he saw.
Wolford went 25-of-45 for 249 yards and rushed 10 times for 28 more. He had three passing touchdowns without an interception and took no sacks.
You’re going to like John Wolford.
— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) December 29, 2020
With that, Wolford beat out Brandon Allen for the third-string quarterback job behind Goff and Blake Bortles last year. That appears significant these days because Allen has played in the last four games for the Cincinnati Bengals in an offense led by McVay’s former assistant, Zac Taylor.
And if you haven’t been paying attention, Allen is no joke.
He has completed 76.7% of his passes in the last two games (56-for-73) and thrown three touchdowns with no interceptions. Allen passed for 371 yards this Sunday.
So if Wolford beat out a talented player like Allen for a spot on Los Angeles’ roster, it is probable there’s something to him.
“John’s done a great job preparing himself all year. You watch and the way that he’s worked at it, I know there’s confidence from his coaches and teammates,” McVay told reporters on Monday.
Will Rams increase dual-threat possibilities?
Wolford piled up 521 and 683 rushing yards in his final two years of college at Wake Forest in 2016-17, averaging better than 4.0 yards per carry in each.
The quarterback blew up as a senior, as his passing accuracy got a bump. Wolford surpassed 2,000 passing yards for the first time in his four-year career — and did it in a big way. He posted 3,192 passing yards with 29 touchdowns to just six interceptions in his final college season.
So he’s still developing as a passer. While the rushing capabilities may not have translated to the pros completely, he has a feel for working on the move.
Wolford didn’t scoot to the same degree during his stint as a starter for the AAF’s Arizona Hotshots, but he does have some mobility to get out of situations and also flashes the tools to make plays with his arm on the run.
QB John Wolford goes from playing for Arizona in the AAF to playing against Arizona in a high-stakes NFL finale. pic.twitter.com/e8nhVhPXtx
— Dinn Mann (@mooseoutfront) December 28, 2020
Here are some John Wolford Arizona Hotshot stats for you to get acclimated. pic.twitter.com/qiBuFDDci3
— Kevin Zimmerman (@KZimmermanAZ) December 29, 2020
McVay was asked on Monday if Wolford might bring with him some new wrinkles to the Rams offense, which with Goff already relied on moving the quarterback out of the pocket with frequency.
“Without getting into too many specifics … I think there is a skillset and some things that maybe we can do with him,” McVay said. “I don’t think you don’t want to get too far away from some of the things he’s been repping, that he’s been working on that if, in the instance Jared had to come out of the game, that he could seamlessly step in — you don’t feel like you have to make some all-encompassing change.
“I do think it’s important to have some agility and flexibility specific to that quarterback. We’ll definitely connect with him, making sure that we’re identifying … what are the ways we want to attack a tough Arizona defense and how does that match up with some of the things he can do?”
Wolford has enough rushing chops to cause problems and even has mimicked Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray with the scout team.
Great response to my question from S John Johnson about Kyler Murray’s specific run stride and how not only a scout team QB imitates it, but also adjusting to defend it:
“It’s like a roadrunner!”
Johnson says that backup QB Wolford also kind of runs like that (a bit slower)
— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) December 3, 2020
It’s probable that the Rams will strongly consider taking advantage of Wolford’s mobility, especially after watching a relatively non-mobile quarterback in Beathard keep Arizona on its heels last week with a sprinkling in of designed runs.