Los Angeles Rams Defensive Pillar: Ernest Jones Crowned Most Underrated by Analytics Firm

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It is hard to NOT get overshadowed when playing alongside Aaron Donald, but Los Angeles Rams linebacker Ernest Jones is starting to get the recognition he deserves. Sure wrapped in the recognition is being called underrated, but it is recognition nonetheless.

Pro Football Focus released an article highlighting the most underrated player on each team. They picked Jones for the Rams. Here is their analysis of the former 104th pick in the 2021 draft;

“Naturally, Aaron Donald received all the attention on the Rams’ defense over the past decade. His retirement means Jones should get more recognition, especially if he continues to play like he did in his third season. He finished the 2023 campaign with an 86.2 PFF overall grade, which ranked 13th at the position. He was also one of just three linebackers to earn run-defense and pass-rush grades above 80.0.”

A Deeper Dive Into Jones’ Role Since the Los Angeles Rams Drafted Him

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Indianapolis Colts
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PFF’s Senior Analyst and writer of this piece, Zoltán Buday, starts to unpeel the onion that is Jones’ greatness in the last sentence of his analysis when he points out Jones’ versatility against the pass and the run.

Even before his breakout season last year, Jones had been a defensive Swiss army knife for the Rams, doing any and everything asked of him.

He was thrust into a starting position midway through his rookie season, only then asked to take a back seat after the Rams added Bobby Wagner in 2022. In 2023 Jones was named team captain and was given the duty of defensive play caller on an extremely inexperienced defense. Not only that, but when the Rams pass rush fell flat Jones moved into a new role as a blitzer last season. In his first two seasons, he was used as a blitzer just 33 times in 32 games. In 2023 alone he blitzed 58 times in 15 games.

Turns out, Jones is good as a pass rusher too. He led all linebackers in quarterback pressures with 37 and came in fourth with six sacks. He also finished the season with 51 STOPs, a PFF stat that tracks tackles that constitute a “failure” for the offense. That was best on the 2023 team.

Jones also missed just two tackles while playing 934 snaps, one of the best rates among all defenders.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Kansas City Chiefs
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Furthermore, Jones emerged as a leader after veteran presences, like Jalen Ramsey and Wagner left the team. He was elected team captain and was the energetic compass for the defense in 2023. Here is what Rams defensive back, Quentin Lake told the LAFB Network about Jones’ 2023 campaign.

“So underrated. He was huge for us this year in terms of team morale. Not only his play. We know that he broke the franchise record in tackles this year, so many sacks. But just his vocal leadership. The energy that he brings to the team was critical for us this year. I think that [Jones] goes under the radar, especially for the Rams because other guys had success. Man, Ernest Jones had one hell of a year and I can’t wait to see what he does this upcoming year and hopefully for years to come.”

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
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