Xavier Jones’s nose for the zone lands him spot on LA Rams roster

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

LA Rams hope to harness SMU’s Xavier Jones nose for the end zone

The LA Rams needed running back depth and found a surprising prospect after the 2020 NFL Draft concluded. Southern Methodist University running back Xavier Jones was not invited to the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. That surprised many because he ran for over 1,200 yards in his senior season, and added another 90 yards in the air.  But perhaps even more astonishing was the fact that the NFL invitation committee did not invite the player who held the NCAA scoring record for 2019 by scoring 11.9 points per game. Even more surprising, he was a running back. a running back who averaged just shy of two touchdowns per game. 25 touchdowns in 13 games to be exact. That’s a lot of scoring. To place into perspective, he scored in one season nearly as often as Cam Akers scored in three seasons.

With that much scoring, you’d expect the young man to be a bruiser who trots onto the field when the offense was in the red zone, right? Well, it was more along the lines of long runs for the end zone.  His highlight reel shows a player who commands about four different speeds and makes wise use of each gear on his way for a score.

Good size great production

Jones has a nice profile for a running back, standing 5-foot-11 and weighing 208 pounds.  And he is a rare combination of speed and power.  He is tough to bring down, particularly if he senses the opportunity to take it in for a score. Wherever he catches the scent of the end zone, whether, on the two-yard line to from his own 20-yard line, he runs at a stop and go pace, weaving to and fro towards daylight.

His NFL Draft profile might have been written about any NCAA football hopeful. It reads like a writeup about an average guy with a good work ethic and not much raw athleticism. It does mention his superpower of scoring at will, but without much fanfare.  While some had him as high as a day three draft selection, he was signed by the Rams after the NFL Draft concluded.

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He just scores touchdowns

2019 was his best season by far.  But he had plenty of talent worth an opportunity to play for an NFL team. And he is following the footsteps of a pretty solid Rams running back from the past in Eric Dickerson, who also hails from SMU.  That type of connection may be how the Rams learned about Jones while other NFL teams seemed to look the other way.

Jones won’t blaze past defenders with inhuman speed. Nor will he plow into the line of scrimmage and move the pile six yards for a touchdown.  What he does do is control his body direction, speed, and center of gravity as well as anyone in a football jersey.  His instant stop, start, turn maneuvers simply make defenders miss as they launch at thin air. When someone finally gets hands upon him, he can gear down, churning away until the would-be-tackler falls to the wayside. All the while, he’s plotting a course to the endzone.  244 touches, 23 rushing touchdowns. That equates to nearly a 10 percent touchdown rate.

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Will he do that as a running back for the LA Rams?  Very likely no. But he has a nose for the endzone and can score on virtually any running play from any distance. I hope he gets a chance to electrify the fans at SoFi stadium in the preseason by breaking a long touchdown run.