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Rams LB Ernest Jones 'excited about the challenge without' Aaron Donald

It's altogether unlikely the Los Angeles Rams will ever truly fill the cleats of Aaron Donald -- and they certainly cannot be expected to do so in one offseason's worth of time.

Nonetheless, Rams veteran linebacker Ernest Jones is eager to attempt it as L.A. gets to work on its first season without the surefire Hall of Fame defensive lineman since 2013.

"I'm excited for the challenge," Jones told reporters Monday, via FOX Sports’ Eric Williams, "defensively we're excited about the challenge without AD."

The Rams will be without a 10-time Pro Bowl, three-time AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year and all-around wreaker of havoc seldom, if ever, seen on the interior of the defensive line when they kick off 2024 sans Donald, who retired in March.

For the 24-year-old Jones, though, he sees the obstacle to overcome as an opportunity to embrace for many on the defense.

"We get to go out there and now it's time for those guys to make a name for themselves, so it's just going to be a great task," he said.

Among those tasked with stepping up are defensive back additions Kamren Curl, Darious Williams and Tre'Davious White, along with returning talents such as 2023 third-round selections Byron Young and Kobie Turner, who turned in stellar rookie campaigns.

Jones, a 2021 third-rounder, has envisioned himself becoming a Rams leader since he joined the club.

"From the moment I got here, this was a goal of mine to be this leader of this defense," he said. "Kinda took that towards last year, but with him being gone now, there's a lot more eyes on me, which I can sure handle. Got a great group of guys that I'm looking forward to lead. We brought in some key parts that I think are going to be real beneficial to us as a team. When you got a team like that, it's truly easy to lead, then, because all guys are ready to go."

This certainly isn't your usual Rams offseason.

For the first time since 2016 and the first time in Sean McVay's time as head coach, the Rams are set to make a first-round selection. And, as aforementioned, it will be the first time since 2013 that they'll be entering a season without the dominant Donald on the roster.

Through three seasons, Jones has one a Super Bowl, played in 47 games, started 33 and is coming off a 2023 campaign in which he produced career highs of 145 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He believes he -- and the rest of his defense -- are up to the task of leading the AD-less Rams.

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