HOUSTON – Of course Ernest Jones was going to be ready. Why wouldn't he be?
Though the Rams rookie linebacker had primarily contributed on special teams and not played much on defense through the first seven weeks of the season, he still prepared each week as if he was a starter.
Six days after the Rams traded linebacker Kenny Young to the Broncos, Jones was one – and thanks to that mindset, he didn't miss a beat, tallying a team-high nine total tackles, snagging the first interception of his NFL career, registering half of a sack and breaking up a pass in Los Angeles' 38-22 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday.
"It was just kind of everything that I've been wanting," Jones said. "I've been wanting to get a bigger role for this team and help us out, so when the news came out about trading Kenny, of course I wanted to be there for him, but I also knew the season wasn't going to end, (that) there are vet guys in that locker room who are depending on me to come in and, if not elevate our play, just keep it the same and not us bring down."
Suffice to say, there was no drop-off.
Jones returned his first interception 19 yards to the Houston 12-yard line midway the second quarter, eventually leading to a 2-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford to wide receiver Robert Woods that gave the Rams a 17-0 lead.
"Just out there in the flats, and kind of felt the guy coming behind me," Jones said of the interception. "Just trying to play it whereas the quarterback would think he wasn't. He threw it, and I caught it and tried to go get us a touchdown."
His split sack with outside linebacker Leonard Floyd of Texans quarterback Davis Mills early in the third quarter resulted in a 5-yard loss and forced Houston to punt from its own territory.
And if that wasn't enough, he also made a key open-field tackle on Texans running back David Johnson for a one-yard loss after Johnson caught the ball. That stop came on 3rd and 16, forced the Texans to punt and saw Woods increased the Rams' lead to 38-0 on a 16-yard touchdown run at the end of the ensuing offensive series.
"Ernest Jones balled out tonight. He was doing awesome," defensive lineman Greg Gaines said. "I mean, that interception was super cool. He was making good tackles, fitting up in the holes. I knew he was ready, too. He's been practicing well, showing what he's got."
For his efforts, Jones was rewarded with a game ball in the locker room following the Rams' win.
"I was really pleased with Ernest," Rams head coach Sean McVay said. "I thought he flew around. I thought he was able to learn from a couple things early on in the game where he could be a little bit more decisive, a little bit better with some of the concept-trigger and recognition, but once he settled in, you could see, this guy's a football player."