Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Rams’ under-the-radar moves that got them to Super Bowl 2022: Divorcing DeSean Jackson, trading Kenny Young

There are plenty of reasons to root for the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI, that is unless you’re the Cincinnati Bengals, who have their own laundry list of reasons to be cheered on in their pursuit of their franchise’s first NFL championship. But for the Rams, there’s the added appreciation of what they were able to look in the mirror and change during the season — seeing some of their preseason moves having not gone as planned. From the earthshaking trade that sent Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford and the in-season additions of Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller, the Rams are a team that have continually pushed all of their chips to the center of the table. 

They’ll have their work cut out for them against Joe Burrow and Co., to say the least, but let’s take a moment to dive into three moves that helped get the Rams to where they are — those that flew far under the radar at the time but led to bigger and better things.

Course correction on DeSean Jackson

Considering most NFL teams would scratch and claw to avoid admitting a mistake, let alone swiftly, the Rams deserve a lot of credit for ending the failed homecoming of Jackson when they did. In a season/league filled with butterfly effects, the decision by Sean McVay and the front office in Los Angeles to release a disgruntled Jackson in early November kicked the door open for what became the acquisition of Beckham. Make no mistake about it, McVay would’ve probably pursued OBJ even with Jackson in the mix, but you’d be hard-pressed to believe Beckham would’ve been as inclined to take his talents to the Rams if a ticked-off Jackson were still there — begging the question of just how much (or little) Beckham would’ve been used (a triggering thought when considering what he dealt with in Cleveland).

With Jackson gone, McVay could not only make needed assurances to Beckham, but he could also deliver on them with no interference from the homecoming king that wasn’t. Beckham went on to become one of the biggest weapons for Stafford alongside Cooper Kupp, filling in nicely for an injured Robert Woods, who has long been lost for the season. It was all another sign of McVay’s willingness to adapt on the fly, and not simply during games, but also between them.

The Kenny Young trade

Speaking of the butterfly effect, Young has now twice been the rock tossed into the pond that sent waves out to the shore ending in a major Rams acquisition. The linebacker was acquired in 2019 by way of a trade that sent four-time All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens, and the collateral obtained fueled the trade for three-time All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Two seasons later, Young was traded to the Denver Broncos in exchange for a 2024 seventh-round pick, creating salary cap space and the giving the Rams the ear of Broncos general manager George Paton. They’d parlay that rapport into the trade for future Hall of Fame linebacker Von Miller, who returned from injury to be a defensive force for Los Angeles.

Rumors of Miller’s demise were grossly exaggerated, as evidenced by the fact he racked up seven sacks in six games leading into the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. Miller joins OBJ as the two biggest midseason pieces acquired on the Rams’ run to Super Bowl LVI, and Miller probably never steps foot in L.A. if Paton wasn’t already on the line discussing Young.

The Brandon Powell signing

You won’t hear much about it, but it matters. Beckham and Miller will rightfully carry the headlines as moves the Rams made to prove they were all-in this season, along with the blockbuster trade for Stafford last offseason, but adding Powell to the mix helped boost a special teams unit that lacked some electricity. Initially signing with the Rams as a practice squad member on Nov. 4, he’s since proven his worth and then some. Powell has helped flip field position in critical moments for the Rams on the back end of the season, including a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 16 — a game the Rams won by seven points to stretch their win streak at the time to four games.

An undrafted talent grabbed by the Detroit Lions in 2018, Powell is already an NFL journeyman at the tender age of 25, but he went from not playing in a single game for his previous two clubs — the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins — to getting ready to suit up for the Rams as a key piece of the roster that has a shot at making them champions this season.

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