LA Rams RB Jones can follow fellow-SMU alum Dickerson

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

Can LA Rams RB Xavier Jones follow former-SMU alumni Eric Dickerson’s career?

The LA Rams found a star running back from Sothern Methodist University when the team selected running back HOF RB Eric Dickerson as the second player off the board in round one of the 1983 NFL Draft. Of course, football was quite a bit different in 1983.

At that time, the running game was the featured plays of NFL offenses. That meant two wide receivers, one tight end, and two running backs behind the quarterback. Eric Dickerson was perfect for the Rams offense in 1983, and the Rams were the perfect team for him. In his rookie season, he rushed for 1,803 yards and 18 touchdowns. The ground game dominated NFL offenses in 1983.  And Eric Dickerson dominated the ground game.

HOF Dickerson was a legendary NFL runner

Turn the calendar ahead some 37 years. HOF running back Eric Dickerson’s final season was 27 years ago. The LA Rams are once more in need of a star at the running back position. But this is a different offense, and the Rams have already set their depth chart for the position.

HOF Eric Dickerson set an NFL record for rushing yards in a season by rushing for 2,105 yards in just his second year in the league in 1984. That record remains unbroken to this day.

HOF hero for an undrafted running back

What chance does undrafted running back Xavier Jones have of making an impact with the LA Rams offense this year? Well, it’s a safe bet that Jones will not see much action this season. And no, don’t see this as a crude attempt to compare the two players. But the battle for recognition for Xavier Jones has just started. Even by making the team’s 53-man roster, he is now buried beneath Malcolm Brown, Cam Akers, and Darrell Henderson.

The guy at the end of the bench must sustain a good mindset. He must be ready to play at a moment’s notice. And when he plays, he must make the most of each opportunity. How does a young man sustain that level of intensity and energy each day? In the case of former Southern Methodist University running back Xavier Jones, he has a Hall of Fame running back from his alma mater to pattern his career after. Following in the footsteps of Eric Dickerson is one way to stay on track in the NFL.

Different paths, same destination

It is a far cry different to be a rookie chosen second in the NFL Draft, versus one who never heard his name called. While those circumstances are different, so is the NFL offensive philosophy. The NFL has changed the rules to favor passing offenses. Running backs, once drafted early each year, are now devalued. In their place, offenses now value wide receivers and tight ends. Even running backs today must display proficiency in catching the ball out of the backfield.

Xavier Jones wasn’t invited to the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, despite scoring the most in the NCAA in 2019. He didn’t hear his name called in the 2020 NFL Draft.  Yet there he is, on the LA Rams 53-man roster.  The road he must travel remains steep. The odds remain very much stacked against him.  Yet Xavier Jones knows that a former running back from SMU, Eric Dickerson, set an NFL rushing record. Jones has already broken Dickerson’s SMU TD record.

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Every NFL rookie dreams of setting NFL records. But few have a former HOFer to show them the way. Xavier Jones knows he can do it. How? Eric Dickerson showed him the way.