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Expanded Role For Xavier Jones? Rams' Sean McVay Weighs In

Xavier Jones should be in for a bigger role in 2021 after two weeks of practice.

Finding a stable No. 2 running back shouldn't be hard. But it can be if you're the Los Angeles Rams as they find themselves in a predicament.

Darrell Henderson will see the primary carries in 2021 following the Cam Akers' season-ending injury. Sure, he's looked the part at times in 2020, but this is his audition to prove he has what it takes to be a leading man. 

Xavier Jones, the undrafted running back from last fall, now could be seeing an expanded role. Two weeks into a camp and Rams head coach Sean McVay has seen a difference in the former SMU runner. 

McVay didn't go into much detail on how the running back room would divide carries, but he did mention that Jones has earned the right for more playing time entering the team's first preseason game against the Chargers. 

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“Been really pleased with him,” McVay said of the second-year runner after Tuesday’s practice. “Thomas Brown (RB coach) has done an excellent job. I think Xavier got better and better last year. You could see his confidence grow and I thought he really hit the ground running in training camp. With his opportunities, he’s really delivered.”

The former Mustangs starter complied 3,436 yards and 45 touchdowns during his career in Dallas. Last season, he found his way onto the 53-man roster as a special teams contributor. 

Jones did not record a carry last fall due to names ahead of him on the roster. Even before Akers' Achilles, Los Angeles was looking for a No. 3 runner following the departure of Malcolm Brown to Miami. 

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Getting used to McVay's system should come as second nature. The Rams will likely be relying on a more pass-heavy approach with the arrival of new quarterback Matthew Stafford. 

During his final season at SMU, Sonny Dykes implemented a more heavy emphasis on the air-raid attack. Jones still managed to record 23 touchdowns on the ground while adding another two through the air. 

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McVay said that part of all jobs for running backs will be picking up the blitz off the edge. That's something Jones was required to do already in both 2018 and 2019. 

"I think he’s picked things up pretty quickly,” McVay said. “I think he’s a complete player. I think when you look at protection, he’s definitely smart. What you’re really looking for, first and foremost, is a willingness and toughness to put your face on people and go meet people at the line of scrimmage."

Jones still is learning how to play at NFL speed, but his growth has warranted a second look. McVay pointed out that his understanding of the system has tremendously improved in just weeks arriving back at practice. 

"He’s a guy who is going to carve out a role for himself. What that is is too be determined," McVay said. "But he’s a guy we’re going to expect to kind of count on throughout the season.”

The Rams will play in front of a live crowd at SoFi Stadium for the first time Saturday since the stadium's completion last fall.  

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