The future of the Los Angeles Rams will soon be the first to report to 2021 training camp and on Thursday, the franchise made sure that the last rookie was signed.
Ernest Jones, the 103rd overall selection in the 2021 draft out of South Carolina, signed a rookie contract on Thursday afternoon per the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Via overthecap.com, Jones will be expected to make $4.8 million over the course of four years. Also attached to his contract will be a signing bonus worth up to $840,616. The signing comes with the rookie class scheduled to report first to camp on Sunday.
Who is Jones?
Jones was an intellectual inside ‘backer known for calling the defensive signals and snuffing out the run while with the Gamecocks. In three seasons while playing in the always rugged Southeastern Conference, Jones posted eight games of crossing past the double digit tackle plateau.
Jones’ best outing came on October 24 during the truncated COVID-19 season: Collecting 19 total tackles including eight solo stops despite the 52-24 loss to LSU.
Lance Zierlein of nfl.com evaluated Jones and called him a blue-collar, intelligent LB in this evaluation:
“Two-down linebackers with limited speed and below-average athleticism aren’t exactly in vogue these days, but Jones has the field IQ and interior toughness to warrant consideration. He’s a blue-collar linebacker capable of handling the physical duties required of his position, but he will always have limitations in pursuit speed and coverage talent. He has a good feel for diagnosing blocking schemes and finding runners between the tackles, so a role as a backup inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense might be his best fit early on in his career.”
Interestingly, and perhaps fittingly, Jones’ NFL comparison happens to be his newest Ram linebacker teammate Micah Kiser.
Jones’ high school coach Franklin Stephens spoke to Heavy back on May 31. Stephens, who coached him at Ware County High in Georgia, even saw the field intelligence before Jones’ college career began.
“He’s just one of those kids who God blessed with football intelligence. He’s going to be a coach on the field,” Stephens said. “One of the most intelligent football kids. His football IQ is unbelievable.”
Rams linebacker coach Chris Shula fell in love with Jones’ film before the Rams drafted him, saying “He was someone we identified early in the process as a guy that really fits the mold of exactly what we want in our linebackers.”
Where will the Rookie Fit in?
Injuries decimated the Rams LB unit a year ago. This time, the ILB’s are in full health heading toward Irvine next week.
Jones figures to be plugged inside, his natural spot during his South Carolina years. He could be in wait-and-learn mode though, with veteran Kenny Young back for year No. 4 in the league and Kiser showing flashes of being an effective run stopper in his nine starts last season.
Troy Reeder proved to be effective as well when called upon. The third-year pro who started out as a special teamer tallied 76 tackles on defense; including surpassing the 10-digit tackle mark in five games and snatching three sacks against Washington on October 11.
But this doesn’t mean Jones will be guaranteed to be a sideline stander. The Rams allowed him to call the defensive signals during OTA’s and, if the injury bug returns to the LB group, Jones could see early action. Rams team reporter Stu Jackson also predicted on July 7 that Jones could see the field on special teams since tackling is his primary strength.
With Jones officially signed, every member of the L.A. Ram 2021 class are now under contract and ready to go for July 25 when the rooks report to Orange County.