THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – A wide smile broke across rookie linebacker Ernest Jones' face as he thought back to pregame introductions on Sunday – his first time being introduced as a defensive starter for the Rams.
"That was probably one of the best moments of my life," Jones said during a video conference with reporters Monday. "Just hearing that for the first time – I can say since I became a starter I've been waiting on that game."
The moment was certainly earned. Jones has settled into his role well, injecting the same energy shown as he ran out of the tunnel Sunday afternoon into the Rams defense.
In Los Angeles' win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Jones had a team-high nine total tackles, plus half of a sack, one QB hit and one pass breakup.
Overall, Jones has tallied 33 of his 41 total tackles on the season since becoming a starter.
"It's just been constant growth throughout these games," Jones said. "Especially these last three, I kind of sensed myself being a lot more comfortable yesterday. I want to go out there and be myself, go back to being myself and having that excitement and that joy that I always show, and just fly around and make a lot of plays."
Jones did just that in Week 12, whether it was teaming up with Rams outside linebacker Leonard Floyd to hold Jaguars running back James Robinson to a three-yard gain, beating a Jaguars offensive lineman one-on-one to split a sack with Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald, or pushing Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence out of bounds while in coverage, then delivering a big hit on Robinson to cause an incompletion.
"I think we got in some situations that really express his ability a little bit more," Rams head coach Sean McVay said postgame. "We were in more favorable down and distances for us defensively where they're forced to kind of throw it. We get a lead and there's was a lot of the stuff that we loved out of Ernest coming out of South Carolina. You get his feel his range, his ability to be able to sense things and diagnose them. I think our defensive staff has done a great job of just continuing to help him improve."
As the Rams shift their attention toward Monday Night Football against the Cardinals (5:15 p.m. pacific time, ESPN and ABC7), they'll a similar high-energy, playmaking performance out of Jones. Led by running back James Conner, the Cardinals have averaged 118 rushing yards per game since facing the Rams in Week 4, which places increased importance on the Rams' linebacking corps – and defensive front seven – stopping the run.
When Jones, or any player, plays like Jones did on Sunday, it's impacted the rest of the Rams' defense, according to defensive lineman Aaron Donald.
"Anytime guys is out there feeling good and making plays, it's worked for us," Donald said postgame. "I be in my own little world, so I didn't really see everything he was doing, so when I watch the film, I can give you a better answer than that. But I've seen him some big plays for us and it was exciting on a lot of them plays."