What’s the big deal about players being able to change their uniform numbers this year? The NFL’s decision to let players choose a wide array of numbers, to be “5” or “9” or “15” if they want to do that, is either a cash grab or eliminating an archaic rule that didn’t really matter anyway, right?
It couldn’t actually impact what happens on the field, right?
Not according to the player who has more Super Bowl appearances than any single franchise in the NFL.
The league decided this year that players will be able to choose almost any number they want to. There are a few exceptions of course, but for the most part, the big difference is that we will see defensive players and running backs wearing single-digit, or low-digit numbers that tend to be reserved for quarterbacks, receivers, or other defensive players besides cornerbacks and linebackers.
Jalen Ramsey used to be #20.
This year, Jalen Ramsey is #5.
Darious Williams used to be #31.
This year, Darious Williams is #11.
So who cares?
Tom Brady, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB who faces Ramsey, Williams, and the LA Rams in Week 3. First, he needs to get through a Dallas Cowboys defense on Thursday that will feature linebacker Micah Parsons wearing #11 and cornerback Trevon Diggs wearing #7. Another linebacker, Jaylon Smith, will be wearing the same number as Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford: #9.
Brady, arguably the smartest quarterback in history, is already confused.
“So one guy has got a 6, one guy has 11, one guy has got a 9. And they change every play when you break your routes and get to your spot. It’s going to be a very challenging thing. It’s a good advantage for the defense, which that’s what it is.
“It would be like saying, ‘What if I let the offensive linemen wear 82 and No. 9?’ Brady continued. “They wouldn’t know who was eligible. Well that’s not fair. You’ll get your tail kicked. At least identify who the D-line, the linebackers and the safeties are. You’re going to have a lot of matchups where guys are blocking the wrong guys. I don’t know why that should be.”
Brady went on to say that he’s worried that his teammates won’t always know who to block and that will leave free lances for other defensive players to disrupt his intentions on that play, if not to destroy him entirely.
“The number rule is crazy,” Brady said. “Literally, guys changed their numbers today. I’m playing two guys who had different numbers in the preseason. So, yeah you’ve got to watch film and know who you’re studying but so do running backs. They’ve got to know who to block. So does the offensive line. So does the receivers who are adjusting their routes based on blitzes.
“There’s a reason why you do every single thing in football,” Brady said. “And you study hard so you can put yourself in a good position. Now you get to the game, and you’re going to be confused the whole time because you’re rotating what a D-lineman used to look like versus a linebacker or here is what a safety looks like. Very pointless.”
Perhaps there is no defensive player in football then who will have a greater advantage than Jalen Ramsey because of the number rule. Why?
Well, number one, Ramsey is an elite defensive player. We knew that already. He’s got football IQ that is unmatched and his physical gifts make him the ideal cornerback to cover everyone from a guy like Mike Evans at 6’5, 231 to a guy like Chris Godwin at 6’1, 209, and if absolutely necessary, a guy like Rob Gronkowski at 6’6, 268.
And number two, as we saw with Brandon Staley’s one year at the helm, Ramsey is capable of doing a lot more than just being an outside cornerback. As the “star” player on LA’s defense, Ramsey moves inside to nickel, he plays outside, and he’ll generally go wherever needed.
In other words, he’s Tom Brady’s nightmare.
Given the number change, Ramsey’s #5 will now be seen all over the defense, as well as Williams’ #11, and that means that those assignments will mean not overlooking two of the Rams’ best players on the field at any given time. A third defensive back, second-year safety Jordan Fuller, switched to #4.
Good luck, Tom. If you need help, just call this number: