The 2022 Los Angeles Rams had to navigate their way without their star power — as Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald and prized free agent pickup Allen Robinson were unable to finish out the season.
But through the injuries came guys not only needing to step up, but they responded by delivering career-best marks.
Who are the three on defense who ascended to new production given the circumstances of this season? Here’s who wound up surpassing new marks:
Ernest Jones, Inside Linebacker
Jones went from the most productive rookie from the 2021 Rams draft class to producing his first career 100-tackle season — with two games still left.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder out of South Carolina improved his total tackles number by 39 this season and his solo tackle number by 21. The third round selection even hit a new career-best of three tackles for a loss. Then there was this first from him: A one-handed interception on December 8 versus the Las Vegas Raiders.
One more notable accolade from Jones: He ended up getting double-digit tackles three times this season — more than the one he had during the Super Bowl 56 run. And he accomplished that playing alongside future Hall of Famer and the Rams’ leading tackler Bobby Wagner.
He said it: “The way that he reads, flows, and a lot of the stuff he’s doing is just natural. His God given ability is just play linebacker at a high-level. Obviously you see a little bit of similarities, but there’s a lot of things that he does naturally that makes him such an amazing player,” Wagner following the Rams’ 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers on October 16.
Michael Hoecht, Defensive Tackle/Edge Rusher
Experimenting with the 6-foot-4, 310-pounder at linebacker became one of the most interesting parts of the Rams’ season.
But it may be the best thing to happen to his young career. Because of the production increase.
The natural defensive tackle ended up with 24 total tackles, 15 solo stops and busted out his first two tackles for a loss at this new spot. He additionally added seven quarterback hits with 3.5 sacks in the last four games. And he delivered his first two-sack day against the Seattle Seahawks on December 4.
It’s quite the improvement from only getting seven tackles, six solo and no sacks or tackles for a loss in 2021.
Nick Scott, Safety
Scott went from seventh rounder, to being called “practice squad candidate,” to special teamer, all the way to improving his tackle numbers across the way as a consistent starter.
With a season-long injury to Jordan Fuller at the safety spot, Scott stepped in to bust out 80 tackles, 52 solo stops, one stop behind the line of scrimmage and snatched two interceptions — with one of those takeaways coming in the end zone to seal the win over the Panthers:
And the other against past Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs:
He produced four games of hitting eight or nine stops this season.
And Scott has put up career-highs in a contract year, as he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2023.
He said it: “He’s tough. Just him as a competitor, his confidence and the progression and the growth and development we’ve seen over the last couple years, can’t help but love that guy. Similar to what we were saying about Cooper Kupp, this is a guy that embodies a lot of the things that good football teams have – that character, that toughness, that competitiveness. Love Nick Scott,” McVay on the September 14 “Coach McVay Show.”