The Los Angeles Rams made a trade last week that surprised many, sending starting linebacker Kenny Young to the Denver Broncos for a low-round draft pick.
Young was in the midst of a solid season and the Rams don’t have a ton of depth at linebacker, although it has since come to light that the trade was made in order to free up playing time for rookie third-round pick Ernest Jones.
Jones made his first career start in Young’s absence against the Houston Texans in Week 8 and had a really strong game, recording his first interception in addition to leading the Rams in tackles with nine with one tackle for loss and 0.5 sacks.
After the game, Sean McVay couldn’t help but be impressed with the rookie’s performance.
“I thought he did really well,” McVay said. “I thought our defense as a whole were really smothering. I know we see those points on the board at the end, but when you look at the guys that are our starters and our first groups, I thought they did a great job really applying pressure. I thought Raheem [Morris] and the coaching staff had an outstanding plan. But I was really please with Ernest [Jones].
“I thought he flew around, and I thought he was able to learn from a couple things early on in the game where he could’ve been a little bit more decisive and a little bit better with some of the concept recognition. But once 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.”
McVay added that Jones’ versatility and ability to move all around is what impressed him most and there should be more of that to come.
“Absolutely. That’s what we’ll try to do every week. Part of that is a reflection of, okay, what are they doing? How do they want to protect with five- and six-man protections and then also everybody is going to have a plan for 99 and how can we utilize that to our advantage, and so the more matchups that we can create, the better off it is going to be for us and those choker type players that you are alluding to. Ernest is certainly one of those guys, and that’s something that we can build on for sure.”
With the recent addition of Von Miller and emergence of Jones, the Rams defense is set up to be one of the best in the NFL moving forward. The Rams’ ability to find steals in the draft has helped them tremendously when building their rosters in recent years, and it looks like they have found another one in Jones.