Ernest “The Enforcer” Jones
The LA Rams have been searching for an inside linebacker replacement for inside linebacker Cory Littleton since he signed on with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020. The team may have finally found his replacement with rookie Ernest Jones, a 6-foot-2 230-pound inside linebacker who has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
He is a player who NFL Draft analysts described as ‘limited speed and below-average athleticism‘ but who has shown plenty of NFL caliber upside on the Rams defense.
His role with the Rams defense has coincided with that of Gaines, in that he had a limited rotational role with the team through the first seven games of the season. But he started his first game against the Houston Texans, and he led the defense on a shutout until the starters were pulled off the field for the final quarter. He even came up with his first NFL interception.
Jones started two of the three losses and played well enough as a rookie to warrant remaining the team’s starter. He reemerged as a potential star with a huge game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, getting nine tackles, a share of sacking the quarterback, and a pass deflection that led to an interception.
But he truly claimed the Rams starting role against the Arizona Cardinals when he picked off a Kyler Murray pass at the goal line.
That play turned the momentum of the entire game and led to a Rams upset of the NFL’s best Cardinals team.
Perhaps the biggest impact of Jones has been in run defense, an area of particular concern among fans.
Texans 3.1 yards per rush – average 3.3 yards per rush
Titans 2.7 yards per rush – average 4.3 yards per rush
49ers 3.5 yards per rush – average 4.3 yards per rush
Packers 2.9 yards per rush – average 4.1 yards per rush
Jaguars 2.4 yards per rush – average 4.6 yards per rush
Cardinals 4.7 yards per rush – average 4.0 yards per rush *
*Rams held Cardinals RB James Conner to 31 yards on 13 carries, QB Kyler Murray rushed 7 times for 61 yards.
The LA Rams needed to show the ability to stuff the run, and are doing exactly that with Ernest Jones on the football field. As the weather turns colder, and the running game grows in importance, the Rams are proving that they have the ability to shut down the running game. That has transformed this LA Rams defense into the seventh-ranked rush defense (yards allowed) in the NFL as of December 16, 2021.
Greg Gaines and Ernest Jones are not LA Rams secrets any longer. But now that the cat is out of the bag, you can bet the LA Rams will lean on them to get them into the playoffs.