The Cast off to the Desert
The lone bright light in what has been an abysmal season for the Arizona Cardinals has been outside linebacker Chandler Jones. The talented pass rusher is in his second season with the Cardinals after spending his first four years with the New England Patriots. Jones came to Arizona through a March 2016 trade with the Patriots, where the Cardinals sent a 2016 second round pick and guard Jonathan Cooper to the Patriots in exchange for Jones.
Quietly Becoming Head of the Class
In just two seasons, Jones has solidified himself as one of the top pass rushers in the NFL and an all around player for the Cardinals defense. In 29 games with Arizona, Jones has tallied 25 sacks and 95 tackles, while also being the defender that offenses key on the most when facing the Cardinals. This is perhaps the key into why Jones deserves to be in the conversation for the Defensive Player of the Year.
He’s Doing it Alone
Jones is the best player on a defense that has suffered numerous losses through injuries and free agency defections. His 2016 numbers could be argued were part of having Calais Campbell at defensive end, occupying the offensive tackle and allowing Jones to compete against a tight end or running back in pass protection. This season has been different as Campbell is now in Jacksonville and book end linebacker Markus Golden injured since the early part of the season. Jones is doing this on his own, with his own tool set of bull rushes, swim moves, spin moves, and rip moves.
Chandler Jones leads the NFL with 14 sacks through 13 games. The lack of help on defense becomes an afterthought when factoring in that the Cardinals do not have a winning record. Most games this season for Arizona have featured the Cardinals playing from behind. This means the opposing offenses are in run first mindsets which results in less throwing opportunities for Jones to get to the quarterback. That said, in addition to sacks, Jones leads the NFL in tackles for loss with 24 which shows his ability to defend against the run as opposed to being a single-minded pass rusher.
Don’t Sleep on the Terror in the Desert
Perhaps the main obstacle for Jones is the lack of media attention on him as a result of the poor team performance by the Cardinals. The lack of wins means a lack of coverage from the media, which in turn results in most of the media not seeing the brilliance of Chandler Jones in 2017. The Cardinals and Jones have three games remaining, all of which they will need to win to have any chance at making the postseason. They begin the final stretch with a road game against Washington with a home game against the Giants before the final game of the season, a road game against the rival Seahawks. Big performances by Jones in those final games will push the conversation and force the football world to speak his name.
*all stats courtesy of NFL.com
– Ryan Adverderada is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Cardinals. He covers the Arizona Cardinals. Follow him at @RyanAdverderada