MMR: Los Angeles Rams Hit the Mark With Ernest Jones

by Blaine Grisak
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On Monday, the Los Angeles Rams traded away a pair of day two draft picks for edge rusher Von Miller. However, while some fans and analysts are applauding the move, there’s still a handful that disagree with what Les Snead is doing. To them, the Rams are selling out for the Super Bowl these next two years. The theory? It could be a long rebuild if they don’t make it either year.

What those people don’t understand are two things. The first, what have these teams done with the picks that the Rams have traded them?

The Rams traded two first round picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Jalen Ramsey. The Jaguars turned that into K’Lavon Chaisson and Travis Etienne. Chaisson has two sacks in seven starts the last two years and Etienne began this year on injured reserve. As it stands, the Jaguars look to be in worse shape than they were two years ago.

The Patriots got an oft-injured Isaiah Wynn in 2018 for Brandin Cooks. The Titans meanwhile got Cory Davis and Jack Conklin for the Rams to trade up for Jared Goff – neither of those players are still on the roster.

There’s this idea that because the Rams don’t have first round picks, they can’t add depth or develop their own talent. However, that’s really the only thing they’ve done since 2017. While teams looked over Cooper Kupp and John Johnson, the Rams selected them in the third round and developed them into top-level starters.

When Brian Allen fell to the Rams in the fourth round because of his size, the Rams selected him and again, have developed him into a top-level starter. Darrell Henderson, David Edwards, Terrell Lewis, Jordan Fuller…the list goes on.

Les Snead and the Rams have done a very good job of finding talent that teams pass on because the player “isn’t fast enough”, “isn’t big enough”, “arms are too short”, etc. The Rams have been able to draft for fit instead of solely need. The latest on that list could be a player that made his first start on Sunday. That player is linebacker Ernest Jones.

Prior to the NFL Draft, Ernest Jones was a perfect fit for the Rams. While some had a sixth or seventh round grade on him, the Rams made sure to get their guy and took him in the third round. In my annual Snead’s Snack’s article, I wrote,

“Ernest Jones might be the perfect fit for the Rams. If there is one guy at linebacker that I had to put my money on the Rams drafting, it’s Jones. He put up elite scores in the vertical and broad jump during his testing, jumping 38.5 inches in the vertical and 10.06 feet in the broad jump. He’s also extremely lengthy with 33.375 inch arms. He’s a disciplined tackler and actually compares very well to Micah Kiser in that area. He’ll need to develop in coverage, but he can be an early contributor with a good training camp.”

In my final mock draft, I gave the Rams Jones with the 209th overall pick.

If they do go linebacker late though, Ernest Jones is actually a very solid option and fits what the Rams look for. This isn’t another Clay Johnston situation. Jones ranked fifth in the SEC in tackles last season. He’s extremely lengthy with 33.375 inch arms. He’s a disciplined tackler who’s stout against the run. He brings a certain attitude to the game and attacks the ball. He needs to improve in coverage, but he could be an early contributor.

I was on to something with Jones and so were the Rams, even if they did take him higher. Last week, the team traded away Kenny Young in exchange for essentially peanuts, but in reality a 2024 sixth round pick. They likely wouldn’t have done that if there weren’t some level on confidence in Jones.

Snead told reporters after the Rams drafted the South Caroline linebacker that the Rams considered Jones as the best leader among every prospect they rated in the draft.

Rams fans have been wanting a good linebacker ever since Cory Littleton left in free agency to the Las Vegas Raiders. There’s a chance that could end up being Ernest Jones. While he only made his first start against the Houston Texans, Jones led the Rams in tackles with nine and also led the defense in tackles for loss. In fact, he became just the seventh rookie linebacker for the Rams since 1987 to record nine or more tackles in his first career start.

It didn’t end there for Jones either. The rookie pulled in an interception that led to the offense’s second touchdown of the afternoon.

“I thought he did really well. I was really please with Ernest. He flew around, and I thought he was able to learn from a couple things early on in the gamence he settled in, you could see this guy is a football player. I was really pleased with Ernest. He just got a game ball, and it was cool for him.”

It’s possible in Jones the Rams found yet another player that the NFL overlooked because he was a “below average athlete.” While some fans may have wanted a linebacker in the second round, the Rams might have found their linebacker in Ernest Jones at 84.

Los Angeles Rams Three Word Game Review: Now It’s Clicking

The Rams were able to overcome offensive inconsistencies throughout the first four games. While the opponents have been the Giants, Lions, and Texans, the offense is hitting on all cylinders. You can’t control who you play. You can only play who’s in front of you.

Stafford threw his 20th touchdown pass, matching Jared Goff’s season total from last year. Cooper Kupp became the first player in NFL history to have 900 yards and 10 touchdowns in the first eight games of the season. Both he and Robert Woods are on pace for 1000 yards. Henderson is also in line to hit the 1000 yard mark on the ground. The offense is finally clicking and they’ll be able to put it up against some tough competition in the coming weeks.

The Turning Point: Ernest Jones’ Interception

The Los Angeles Rams were leading 10-0 after settling for a field goal. The Rams should have been up 17 or 21-0. Instead it was 10-0 and the Texans had the ball. On 3rd-and-10, Jones stepped in front of a pass intended for Danny Amendola and intercepted the rookie quarterback.

The offense took over at the 12 yard line. Four plays later, Robert Woods scored a touchdown to give the Rams a three score lead at 17-0. It was the early dagger that the Rams needed to put away a bad team.

Game Ball: Van Jefferson

He didn’t find the end zone, but I think Van Jefferson deserves the game ball from this game. He had 88 yards on three receptions, including a 68-yard reception early in the second half. Jefferson continue to do everything the team asks of him and makes the difficult catches. No DeSean Jackson? No problem. Jefferson can be a deep threat. The sophomore is 48 yards away from doubling his rookie yardage total.

Three Up

1. Ernest Jones

As mentioned, Jones played very well in his first start. Hopefully he gives the Rams and fans confidence that he can be the linebacker in the middle of the defense. He outplayed Troy Reeder and is only going to continue to get better. He’ll have a big test this week against the Titans.

2. Dont’e Deayon

Why did Dont’e Deayon start the season on the practice squad. If no for a penalty, he might have made the catch of the day and maybe had the interception of the year.

Deayon provides good depth at cornerback for the Rams and they possibly get Darious Williams back this week against the Titans. With Deayon, the Rams have a solid four cornerbacks with Robert Rochell and Jalen Ramsey also in the group.

3. Joe Noteboom

At some point, Andrew Whitworth is going to have to retire. Joe Noteboom could be an affordable option this summer and someone that the Rams use to replace Whitworth. He started several games last year and performed well on Sunday. His natural position is left tackle and he’s been very solid there.

5 Takeaways

1. Leonard Floyd Continues His Strong Season

Leonard Floyd doesn’t necessarily grade well in the analytics, but he’s shown this year that he was worth the contract extension. He leads the Los Angeles Rams defense with 6.5 sacks and is on pace to break his career high of 10.5 that he set  last season.

Since 2017, the Rams have been looking for someone who could be a good pass rushing partner with Aaron Donald. The Rams traded for Dante Fowler in 2018 and then signed Floyd last season. The Rams are getting the most out of the former top-10 pick and he’s proving the front office right in return.

2. Special Teams Needs to Improve

It’s your weekly “the special teams needs to improve” section of 10 takeaways.

With that said, the special teams needs to improve. There have been four onside kick recoveries this season. Three of those have come against the Rams. The Texans had a few big returns as well which set up the field goal attempt before halftime and all three touchdown drives in the fourth quarter.

Good teams are going to be able to take advantage of those miscues. The Lions and Texans don’t have the talent on their roster to do it.

3. Final Eight Minutes Don’t Matter

Dont’e Deayon and David Long Jr. led the defense in snaps. JuJu Hughes saw almost 20 snaps along with Bobby Brown and Michael Hoecht. It’s not that those player’s aren’t good. However, those were the players seeing a lot of snaps in the final eight minutes of the game while the defense played very vanilla.

If the Rams cost you money for not covering the 16.5 point spread, that’s a you problem. However, for 3.5 quarters, the Rams played flawless football and dominated. There were way too many getting upset over the final eight minutes of the game when the Rams were playing a second-team offense and defense. Everything that happened in the fourth quarter didn’t matter. The Texans made that game look closer than it really was.

4. Sean McVay’s 50th Win

Sean McVay won his 50th game as the Los Angeles Rams head coach on Sunday. The last three Rams coaches won a combined 43 games. With three more wins, McVay will tie Mike Martz with 53 wins with the Rams. Prior to McVay, the Rams franchise was in a dark place. McVay turned in around immediately and he’s one of the best coaches in the NFL.

Only 103 head coaches have ever won 50 NFL games since the league started in 1920, and he’s already done it at 35 years old. McVay can cement himself among the greats with a Super Bowl ring. 

5. The Real Season Begins

The real season now begins for the Los Angeles Rams. This is a team that has wins over the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts to start the year and then were able to find their footing against the New York Giants, Detroit Lions, and Houston Texans the last three weeks.

Coming up, the Rams have the third most-difficult schedule in the NFL. They play the Tennessee Titans this week followed by the San Francisco 49ers before heading to the bye. The Rams might have caught a break with Derrick Henry breaking his foot. After the bye, the Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, and Baltimore Ravens will be on the horizon. This is when the Rams will win or lose the division and the NFC’s top-seed.

Downtown Rams Mailbag

Question 1

I really like this question. While it’s only week eight, in another month or so, playoff scenarios will begin to be discussed. As it stands, the Rams would travel to Tampa Bay to play the Buccaneers in the wild card round of the playoffs. The question is here, the Rams end up with the fifth seed, which division winner is the most attractive?

While it would be difficult and the Rams lost by 17 early in the season, the Arizona Cardinals provide a good option. They’ll be a team that is very inexperienced in the postseason and playing at home. The Rams meanwhile, went on the road to beat a division opponent just last season. Experience is important in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys look good, but the Rams beat them in the postseason in 2018. If we want to relive 2018 vibes, give me the Cowboys. They’re coached well on defense, but still have their flaws. It’s also a team that always finds a way to lose in the playoffs.

Just give me anyone but Tom Brady.

Question 2

I doubt that this is on the table. It sounds like both sides want to move on. Jackson isn’t getting the playing time that he wants and the Rams have gotten more than they expected out of Van Jefferson. With that said, the Rams did lose TuTu Atwell for the year. That’s not to say that the Rams were using Atwell, but it does make them thinner at wide receiver.

At the end of the day, I expect to see more Ben Skowronek and maybe signing someone outside the organization like John Brown. If the Rams can’t trade Jackson by tomorrow, it wouldn’t be surprised to see him released.

Question 3

I kind of alluded to this earlier, but I’m not sure I see the need for another cornerback at this point. Deayon is playing very well right now and gives the Rams some depth. Rochell played well in his snaps, too. The defense will get Darious Williams back hopefully this week to join Jalen Ramsey as the top two cornerbacks.

While the Rams saved money in the Jackson trade, it does leave options open. However, I don’t see a trade for Xavien Howard to be likely. By giving up two day two picks to get Miller, the Rams also don’t have very many more assets.

Looking Ahead to Next Week

The Los Angeles Rams might have caught a break with Derrick Henry being sidelined for an extended period of time. In his place will be Adrian Peterson. With that said, the Titans will be no easy task for the Rams. Tennessee just won their fourth straight game which includes wins against the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills.

However, Sunday’s game went to overtime for the Titans and there might be some emotional hangover as they head on the road for a second straight week. Still, the Rams will need to be on their A-game to come out with a win.

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