The Los Angeles Rams have a “challenging matchup” on deck for Sunday, September 18.
Before going into the top five of the 2021 NFL draft, Pitts was described as a challenging matchup “who might require specialty defenders” by nfl.com draft expert Lance Zierlein in Pitts’ draft evaluation.
But, the Rams happen to have one defender who’s familiar with Pitts’ athleticism — and he spoke exclusively with Heavy on Rams.
Ernest Jones Had SEC East Battles With Pitts
Also in that 2021 draft class? Rams third-round linebacker Ernest Jones.
And before he was chasing down names like Deebo Samuel, Joe Burrow, Tyler Lockett, etc., Jones was left with the task of banging his pads into the physically imposing Pitts — as both were Southeastern Conference East Division rivals.
“Pretty good matchup. I’m excited about this game. Looking forward to us doing it again and us getting after each other,” Jones said to Heavy following the Rams’ Thursday, September 15 practice at Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks.
Jones will also aim for this achievement against the Falcons and Pitts: Finally getting a win over him.
Jones’ South Carolina Gamecocks never won in the two meetings he faced Pitts’ Florida Gators. Both contests were double-digit losses.
However, Jones and that defense may have secretly given the Rams a blueprint on how to slow down a talent like Pitts courtesy of one battle in Columbia, South Carolina.
Pitts Had One of His Worst Games Against Jones & His Defense
The first time the two squared off against one another was on October 10, 2019 in a game won by Pitts and Florida 38-27.
Jones delivered five total tackles that afternoon, including three solo stops. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Jones was one of three South Carolina defenders who reached the five-tackle threshold alongside Israel Mukuamu and future first rounder Jaycee Horn.
Pitts may have scored in that contest on a 5-yard connection in the fourth quarter from Kyle Trask. But Pitts’ individual numbers hit this low: Only five catches, 29 yards and an average of 5.8 yards per catch. That game ended up becoming his worst yardage day in SEC play that season.
Jones and South Carolina did it with a simple approach: Put seven near the line of scrimmage and play two deep safeties for the two-high look…which still eliminated Pitts from being a downfield threat. Jones and the Gamecocks didn’t allow Pitts to catch his first pass until the 8:35 mark of the second quarter. The future Rams inside linebacker helped spearhead a defense that kept Pitts in front of them and prevented him from using his speed to blow past them.
Pitts had a more respectable game the following season against Jones and South Carolina with four grabs for 57 yards and two touchdowns in that 38-24 win in Gainesville — plus showing off an “impressive catch radius” when single covered.
Even though Pitts never surpassed 100 yards receiving against Jones, the second-year defender knows that Pitts is going to make defenders work.
“You just know that guys like that are going to make their plays, so you just do your best to contain them and do your best to minimize them in the ways they’re best at,” Jones said.
Jones will get his third meeting with Pitts on the field. And this time, he and the Rams feel well rested after the long layover from their Week 1 defeat.
“We’re rested. We’re ready to go. We’re excited and we can’t wait for another opportunity. We’re ready to get a win and ready to do what we have to do,” Jones said.