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Ernest Jones IV readies for expanded leadership role, big Year 4

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – The months ahead loom large for Rams linebacker Ernest Jones IV.

The torch has been passed to him as the leader of Los Angeles' defense. Additionally, Jones and his wife are expecting their first child this summer, so fatherhood will bring another leadership duty.

On top of those responsibilities, he's entering the final season of his rookie contract under the anticipation it will be played out without an extension in place.

"For me personally, I'm a big believer in Jesus Christ," Jones said earlier this week after Day 1 of the Rams' offseason workout program. "So I know at the end of the day, I'm taken care of. So long as I continue to walk around here and play football at a high level, at the end of this season, I'll have the opportunity to take care of my family in the ways that I want to. But from hearing from their aspect that they want to see me another year, that's exciting for me."

Jones had a productive third season in 2023, with a franchise-record 145 total tackles plus career-highs of 4.5 sacks and six passes defensed. He was also voted a team captain for the first time by his peers.

Right now, his goal is to be the best version of himself that he can possibly be – and he doesn't think he's reached his ceiling as a player.

"I don't believe I played my best football," Jones said. "There's a lot more in the tank. There's a peak that I don't think I've hit yet."

Donald and Wagner both served as valuable examples to learn for Jones from a leadership standpoint.

Donald wasn't always vocal unless he had to be, but he always led by example. That work ethic, Jones said, showed how much Donald cared about the entire organization. Wagner was "one of the smartest players I've ever been around," Jones said, who taught him things outside of football in addition to how to be a leader, "how to get guys get behind the wagon a little bit."

Jones will have some help, too, with the additions of veterans like Tre'Davious White and Darious Williams. And he'll have the comfort of being able to continue to work along defensive coordinatinor Chris Shula, who served as his position coach in 2021 and 2023.

"He's always steady, super smart, super intelligent," Jones said of Shula. "The way he's been able to just transfer my game from a pre-snap position (has been) second to none. He's smart, players love him. I think he's gonna fit in perfectly."

All of it sets the stage for Jones to do what he said he's done his entire life: Continue to prove himself.

"So I get to do it again," Jones said. "And then at the end of the year, knowing that I got the opportunity to take care of my family in the way that I've always dreamed of, I'm excited. I'm looking forward to this opportunity to lead this team, but also looking forward to it from a personal standpoint that, play some good ball, you set yourself up real nice."

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