Rams Ernest Jones gets a slap in the face from latest PFF linebacker rankings

Despite being a stalwart defender, PFF shuns Rams veteran ILB Ernest Jones by projecting him outside of their Top-25 NFL linebacker projections for 2024.
Ernest Jones, Los Angeles Rams
Ernest Jones, Los Angeles Rams / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

When it comes to the 2024 version of the LA Rams defense, wherever and however veteran inside linebacker Ernest Jones goes, there goes the team. Despite all of the investments made by the front office to retool the Rams 2024 defense, Ernest Jones's performance will be the barometer of this team throughout the upcoming season. So it is a bit of an insult when any ranking made by projecting 2024 performances places Ernest Jones among the ranks of insignificant players for 2024.

That is exactly what the Pro Football Focus's author Gordan McGuinness is projecting by ranking LA Rams Jones at 30th place in his latest rankings. If this was a ranking of NFL players, that 30th place would be impressive indeed. If it were a ranking of defensive players in 2024, that would be just about right. But this is a ranking of NFL linebackers, and that is a complete slap in the face.

Let's review some basic facts. Ernest Jones recorded 145 tackles in 2023 (11th best). From the NFL's Top-20 tacklers, his 4.5 quarterback sacks were tied for second best in the NFL. So a guy who can tackle and sack the quarterback in no better than 30th? In terms of pass break ups, Jones recorded six in 2023. That places him at 15th among all NFL linebackers.

So how does PFF's Gordan McGuinness justify such a pedestrian ranking for Ernest Jones? Well, this is what he had to say:

"Jones led all linebackers in quarterback pressures (37) last season and ranked seventh at the position with an 86.2 PFF run-defense grade. His 57.5 PFF coverage grade highlights his limitations, which is why he’s not higher on this list, but he is a very good run defender."

PFF's Gordon McGuinness

Sometimes grades are assigned because they focus on the wrong things. Pass coverage grades for a 3-4 inside linebacker can be quite tricky because the grade presumes perfect knowledge of what the responsibility is for that player on each and every play. In the heat of the battle, we know that Jones simply wants to make the play for the defense. That means that if teammate Troy Reeder was out of position, Jones would redirect his role to compensate in coverage. If Jones was closer to the receiver, how would the person grading the play understand that a corresponding completion was due to Reeder, and not Jones?

Jones may not be the best inside linebacker in the NFL, yet, but he is absolutely far better than a 30th ranked position. In fact, I would argue that he is at a minimum, worthy of a Top-15 ranking.

Will this level of disrespect add a bit more incentive to Ernest Jones motivation to perform this season? Perhaps. But I do not suspect that he is the type of player who needs extra motivation. He knows that this team, this defense, depends on him this season, and he is fully prepared to deliver.

He may not be the best at what he does, but he is certainly improving to the point where he soon will be in the running. Of course, it depends on what he is expected to do. The Rams coaching staff seems to be quite pleased with his performance.

For Ernest Jones, that is enough.

Thanks for reading.