Running back Cam Akers delivered another stellar performance, but that wasn’t enough for the Rams to keep pace with the Chargers, as they lost, 31-10, on Sunday at SoFi Stadium. Here’s what we learned, what we heard and what comes next for the 5-11 Rams with one game left on the 2022 schedule:
NO EXCUSES FROM JONES
The Rams entered Sunday with one of the best rushing defenses in the NFL, despite not having interior defensive linemen Aaron Donald and A’Shawn Robinson for the past month. But the lack of depth hurt them against the Chargers and running back Austin Ekeler.
Rams inside linebacker Ernest Jones declined to use injuries as an excuse for why the defense allowed a season-high 192 rushing yards to the Chargers.
“They’re never wrong in our eyes,” Jones said about the inexperienced defensive linemen. “So, just trying to do our best to make them right.”
Jones also didn’t make excuses for his quiet second season. There were high hopes for Jones because he stepped up throughout the Rams’ Super Bowl run, but his role changed after the team surprisingly signed All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner in free agency.
He went from being the middle linebacker who was expected to stay on the field at all times to a rotational player who often spent time on the sideline to make more room for defensive backs and defensive linemen. The Rams attempted to keep Jones involved throughout the season by playing him next to Wagner, but Jones struggled to find a rhythm in the new role with a limited amount of snaps.
“Individual goals, I just wanted to play great,” said Jones, the Rams’ 2021 third-round pick. “I don’t feel like I did that this year. I don’t feel like I lived up to what I know I’m capable of. For me, I’m ready to get in with Seattle (this week), but I’m also ready to get back to work and go do what I know I’m capable of.
“I feel like I’m capable of being one of the best linebackers in this league. I just know I am. So, all I gotta do is go be everything that I say I am, which I will do. Next year will be better.”
Jones, who has 109 total tackles and one interception this season, said he wasn’t upset with the team about the Wagner signing. He was thrilled to learn from one of the best linebackers of his generation. Jones’ patience was tested at times this season, but winning a Super Bowl as a rookie and then learning from Wagner in his second season might set him up for a memorable 2023.
“I try to pay attention to everything he does day-by-day,” Jones said. “I’m just very visual when it comes to him. I think for the most part what I’ve learned this year is that everything that I thought I was doing wasn’t enough. It’s more to be done. I’ve always said to myself that I want to be like him. I want to be Hall of Fame before it’s even said and done.”
Offensive lineman Chandler Brewer waited four seasons to crack the Rams’ starting lineup. He finally earned his shot in Week 9 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and quickly impressed his coaches and teammates as the right guard, but Brewer injured his knee the following game and required surgery.
After missing the prior six games, Brewer was activated from injured reserve and returned as the team’s starting right guard. Brewer was instrumental in why the Rams had 166 rushing yards against the Chargers.
“Just show that I can play,” Brewer, a 2019 undrafted free agent, said about finally getting opportunities this season. “When you’re going against Aaron Donald, the best player in the world, every day, he’s going to make you better, so that’s always fun going against those guys and (the starting) defense because we have a really good group.”
The Rams’ interior offensive line was decimated by injuries this season, but they found a bright spot in Brewer.
Wagner will make his return to Seattle on Sunday for the Rams’ regular-season finale against the Seahawks, the team Wagner spent 10 seasons with before signing with the Rams.
Rams coach Sean McVay wants to beat the Seahawks for Wagner, but he also wants to see his team end a difficult season on a winning note.
“These guys continue to compete,” McVay said. “They continue to show up day in and day out and that’s made what’s been an incredibly challenging year for me a lot easier because of the resilience that they’ve demonstrated. I’ll forever be grateful for this group. Sometimes the best learning lessons can come in these types of seasons that we’ve never been through.”