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Ernest Jones gets taste of defensive signal-caller role in preseason

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Throughout the portion of training camp at UC Irvine, the green dot resided on the helmet of Rams safety Jordan Fuller.

Last Saturday against the Chargers, it found a temporary different home: On the back of rookie linebacker Ernest Jones IV' helmet.

Identified by the Rams scouting department as a candidate to be a future signal-caller for their defense during the evaluation process, Jones got his first shot at it in the Rams' preseason opener.

"It means a lot to me," Jones said postgame of the coaching staff trusting him with that responsibility. "I take pride in being that that guy in the middle. That's always what I wanted to be, that's just who I am. So anytime the coaches just continue to get more comfortable with me playing and being able to control that type of stuff, it means a lot for me, because I enjoy doing it and (it's) a part of middle linebacker, that's what I love about it."

It's a good thing he also loves how the role prevents him from coming off the field, because he was on there for a long time on the opening drive – though it wasn't really his fault.

Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris after Monday's practice said he was pressing the wrong headset button during the opening drive, which effectively left Jones to call the plays solo since he couldn't hear the signals. While the drive lasted 21 plays, they still managed to hold the Chargers to a field goal.

"Absolute poise," Morris, who took responsibility for the technical difficulties, said of Jones on that drive. "It was fun to watch."

According to Morris, Rams general manager Les Snead and his scouting staff during the pre-draft evaluation process identified Jones as a candidate to be a future defensive signal-caller, so it made sense the team wanted to see how he handle the role in a live game setting. And as a team captain and vocal leader of the University of South Carolina's defense, Jones' college resume proved he had the intangibles to fit there.

Jones also backed it up with his play in training camp, too.

"He has been out there a few times with the second crew," Morris said. "We have a bunch of guys that can go out and actually run the show and he was one of them. So, when he went out there as one of the younger guys and was able to run the show, he looked comfortable, he felt calm."

That's thanks in part to Fuller, who has been giving him pointers on delivering playcalls more efficiently.

"We've had conversations in the past about that role, and how important it is to effectively communicate," Jones said. "He's given me tips like, when Coach Rah gets something in, kind of shorten it so you can get it out quicker and more efficient than everybody else. So he's been helpful in that area as well."

It remains to be seen if Jones will handle the role again this Saturday against the Raiders – the Rams may decide to experiment with someone else there – but Jones appeared to pass his first test, despite the aforementioned technical difficulties.

"He couldn't hear me. You didn't even know," Morris said. "He heard part of it and he was able to get the rest out. That coming from a rookie and you hear 'flex' and you get the rest of the call out is pretty impressive. Most of that was me messing him up. He had the ability to get that thing going and get us rolling down the field."

Check out photos of Los Angeles Rams players on the practice field as they prep for the second week of preseason action against the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium.

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