During his press conference on Friday, Sean McVay stated that linebacker, Ernest Jones‘ knee injury will keep him out of this weekend’s contest against the Green Bay Packers. Jones is the Los Angeles Rams defensive play-caller and is one of just a few pieces on that side of the ball who has been a reliable and consistent contributor since he was drafted in 2021.
What Ernest Jones Adds To The Rams?
Jones has missed only 29 defensive snaps in eight games so far this season. He leads the team in tackles (75) by a large margin (25) and is 9th in the league overall. Not only is he a high-volume tackler, but he is one of the Ram’s surest tacklers. He has only missed two tackles all season.
Jones has also allowed just 166 yards receiving, which is 6th best among high-volume linebackers. What makes that even more impressive is he has been targeted 25 times this season. That is one of the higher numbers of targets among the linebackers allowing the fewest yards this season.
How Important Is Jones’ Absence?
Ernest Jones isn’t only one of the Rams best defenders, he is one of the best linebackers in the NFL. His absence will be felt dramatically for a few reasons. And both of those reasons are Packers running backs.
Last season, the Packers offense ran through Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. They combined for 1900 yards rushing and 601 yards receiving. That accounts for 42 percent of all offensive yards. They also combined for a total of 129 first downs and 14 touchdowns. That’s 42.7 percent of their first downs and 36 percent of all of the Packers touchdowns.
This year it has been a bit different. A. Jones has been injured and the Packers aren’t running the ball nearly as much as they did last year. But Aaron Jones has returned from injury, which may mean they will lean into his and Dillon’s usage against the Ernest Jones-less Rams team. If they do that, it could be trouble for the rest of the Rams defense.
Who Will Take Jones’ Snaps?
Jones will likely be replaced by Troy Reeder. Reeder was brought on to the team as an undrafted free agent in 2019 and played three seasons with the team, but signed with the Chargers last year only to return to the Rams this season. Simply from a tackling perspective, there is a distinct drop-off from Jones to Reeder. Reeder’s missed tackle percentage (11.9) is more than double that of Jones (4.9).
And that is exactly what the Rams cannot afford. More missed tackles. They currently have the third most missed tackles as a team in the league. Running backs like Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon can gash a team by both running and as pass catchers. 44 percent of Ernest Jones targets have come while covering running backs and Jones did a bang-up job in that role, allowing just 31 yards on 11 targets. He also has the 8th most run stops in the league (19)
The Packers could control the pace of the game with Jones and Dillon, but they are also capable of explosive plays. The added wrinkle this season is Jordan Love. He has been getting between three and four rushing plays each game. His 7.3 yards per rush is the highest among QBs this season.
Luckily for the Rams McVay also alluded to Jones’ return following the bye week. So his injury isn’t being seen as a long-term impediment. In terms of replacing Jones as the ‘green dot,’ Jordan Fuller‘s name comes to mind as he filled that role in 2021.