Can LA Rams RB Xavier Jones crack rotation in 2021?
By Bret Stuter
The LA Rams wanted to create a running back by committee approach for the 2020 NFL season. Of course, that was more aptly described as running back by chapter. The first part of the season featured veteran running back Malcolm Brown. That quickly transformed into scat-back running back Darrell Henderson as the showcased rusher. Finally, the Rams entrusted rookie running back Cam Akers as the featured running back.
Meanwhile, the Rams carried both running backs Xavier Jones and Raymond Calais on the 53-man roster. Calais made an occasional cameo appearance as a kick returner. Jones simply sat on the bench for the duration. A young man who had overcome not attending the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, who did not hear his name called out in the 2020 NFL Draft. Only to sit, and wait, and hope.
The redshirting strategy of newly arrived rookies seems to be a thing for the LA Rams when it comes to offensive players. The organization won’t sign them to the practice squad and risk losing them to other teams. But the team won’t give them the opportunity to play on the offense. Xavier Jones kicked in every door that stood in his way to earn a spot on the Rams 53-man roster. But once there, he sank to the shadows of anonymity.
Oh, there were plenty of opportunities to give Jones a chance to carry the ball. We know that Malcolm Brown injured a finger, that Cam Akers tore rib cartilage and sprained his ankle. We know that Darrell Henderson suffered a leg injury and an ankle sprain. Through each event, the Rams could have opted to allow Jones a chance to share the burden and get some offensive snaps, right?
Aaron Donald commented on Xavier Jones’ ability to run with the ball after the second scrimmage game. He named him as one of the most impressive offensive players from training camp. Surely that would have resulted in some carries in the 2020 NFL season?
In the end, rookie running back Xavier Jones made the roster but didn’t make the rotation. Alongside rookie tight end Brycen Hopkins, offensive lineman Tremayne Anchrum and wide receiver Trishton Jackson, he made the final roster cut only to warm the bench. The move prolific 2019 NCAAF scorer did not warrant a single offensive snap,
I don’t believe in china cabinets. I don’t believe in owning anything to be deliberately stored. I don’t believe in having players on the roster ‘just in case’. Xavier Jones earned a spot on the LA Rams roster and the respect of All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald. In his view, 2021 has a bigger priority than win-now. For Xavier Jones, his most urgent priority comes down to play-me-now.
Yes, they should. The LA Rams will likely lose veteran free agent Malcolm Brown via the 2021 NFL Free Agency market. And it remains to be seen whether the team will add his replacement this year. So go ahead, give Xavier Jones a shot. Otherwise, why take up a roster spot with nothing more than a roster paperweight?