Raheem Morris fired up about Ernest Jones becoming a starter

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The Rams made the bold decision to trade away a starter and their best inside linebacker when they sent Kenny Young to the Broncos this week. It was a deal that came out of nowhere, especially considering Troy Reeder has been struggling at linebacker in recent weeks.

But one of the reasons the Rams felt comfortable making that trade was Ernest Jones. The rookie hasn’t played much this year but he’s about to see his playing time increase significantly.

Raheem Morris expects Jones to hit the ground running in his larger role, saying him and Reeder will be the primary replacements for Young, with Travin Howard also mixing in.

“We expect the guys to step up. We invested in Ernest Jones, we invested in Troy,” he said Thursday. “Those two players mainly will come on and step on and fill some of those shoes and fill those roles, but we’ve got some other players behind those guys, too, like a T-Howard that can give us some of the speed, some of the dynamic playmaking that we lost from Kenny that we can gain from those guys and all those guys together. You can never fill one player’s role with just one guy. It’s a collective development.”

Young was a starter for the Rams, starting all seven games this season. Though he may not have played the most snaps of all the linebackers each week, he was playing a bunch. Morris says Jones will be the starter now, even if he’s not on the field for the first play.

“Is he a starter in my head? Yes. But I don’t know if he’s going to be the opening-play starter. Just depends on the personnel group we go with,” he said. “I’m fired up about watching him play. Sad to see Kenny go, sad to lose a guy like Kenny, but at the same time for Ernest, you’re fired up to see him go out and play to fill those roles and those shoes.”

Jones has been limited to just 45 snaps on defense this season, but the Rams have seen good things from him in practice – enough to feel comfortable trading Young away. Morris says he’s been preparing like he’s the starter each and every week, which hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“I’ve been impressed with his constant development and going out there every single week and treating each week like he was going to be the starter whether he was or not. I’m really looking forward to him playing well and doing a nice job for us,” Morris said.

There are differences between Jones and Young. Jones is a bigger linebacker who’s probably better against the run, while Young is better in space and brings more athleticism to the position.

“Little bit different. Different player,” Morris said. “You’re talking about a bigger player that plays with better length. He’s able to use his hands better and get on and off blocks. Not as fast and not as explosive as a Kenny Young, but they have different traits, different reasons. Probably brings a little bit more pop. Kenny brought a little bit more quick-twitch, in-space tackling.”

The Rams will learn quickly whether Jones is ready for a bigger role, and fortunately he’ll be eased into things against a weaker opponent in the Texans. They rank 31st in scoring and 30th in rushing yards, so hopefully Jones will put together a strong performance in his debut as a starter Sunday.

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