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It's time for Chandler Jones to show up for the Cardinals

Johnny Venerable Avatar
November 6, 2021

For the first time since his bout with COVID-19, Arizona Cardinal pass rusher Chandler Jones spoke to the media about his health among other things.

“I feel really good,” said Jones. “I’m still getting my taste and smell back. I just had a stomach bug that was kind of benign. It came and went.”

Jones, who debunked a report that he lost 15 pounds during his absence from the team, says he now feels faster than he did prior to his illness. The All-Pro outside linebacker is in the midst of a contract year with the team that acquired him back in 2016. Jones, who famously requested a trade this past offseason, has a total of five sacks on the year.

All of which came in Arizona’s season opener at Tennessee.

“I’m not frustrated at all,” said Jones when asked about his lack of sacks since Week 1.

“I understand the game and I am a huge believer that sacks come in bunches. If you watch the game, I am getting to the quarterback.”

Except he’s not.

Dating back to Week 1 of 2020, in eleven games played, Chandler Jones is sackless in nine of those outings. Since his phenomenal 2019 campaign in which Jones tallied a single-season franchise record 19 sacks, the former New England Patriot has largely been kept in check by opposing offensive tackles. That’s not an ideal trend for a player, now well over 30 years old, hoping to secure a big money contract following the season.

“I’m not worried about sacks. Sacks are the last thing on my mind,” said Jones.

As for his claim that he has been effecting the game in more ways than just bringing down the quarterback, there is some truth to that. This season, according to the folks at Pro Football Focus, Jones has a quality pass rushing grade of 89.4. According to PFF, to earn a positive grade, “a rusher must win his block or affect the play beyond the base level of expectations on a given passing play“.

In that sense, perhaps Jones is having an impact for the Arizona Cardinals defensively. Yet when you look at the box score and see a mere one QB hit in his last three games played, you are forced to become a skeptic. The issue at hand becomes all the more apparent when you consider the Cardinals will be, perhaps only temporarily, without the likes of J.J. Watt.

Watt, who was having a banner first season with the Redbirds, is rumored to be reconsidering surgery with the hopes of returning this month.

In the short term, with adversity striking the Cardinals at numerous positions, the team needs Chandler Jones to return to form as soon as possible. That doesn’t mean the occasion disruption in the backfield, or an “almost” sack or two. Rather for the Arizona Cardinals to have a shot Sunday at San Francisco, Jones need to terrorize 49er quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for four quarters.

It’s time for vintage Chandler Jones to reemerge for this team.

To accomplish that however, Jones we’ll have to get through perhaps the best left tackle in football in Trent Williams. In their October 10 outing at State Farm Stadium, Jones managed a single quarterback hit in 28 pass rush attempts while sporting a marginal grade of 48. Meanwhile, Williams has failed to allow a single sack on the season in over 370 snaps played.

“I never shy away from any matchup,” said Jones when asked about the opportunity to oppose Williams.

“To be a successful pass rusher in this league, you have to have a lot of confidence. I truly believe I match up well against their offensive line.”

In a game in which points could be at a premium, especially if the Cardinals are without Kyler Murray, field position will be key for Arizona. If Jones and company can force a couple San Francisco three-and-outs while generating a turnover or two, the Cardinals should be able to leave Levi’s Stadium with a win. On the flip side, expect the 49ers to emulate the Green Bay Packers approach in neutralizing Arizona’s defense. The recipe for the Cardinals first loss on the season last Thursday was a dominant opposing ground game combined with a quick-strike passing attack.

It should be noted that Chandler Jones currently ranks as one of the worst outside linebackers in football when defending the run.

“I’m at a good place and I think we’re going to be fine. I’m going to be fine. I think we just need to relax and do what we need to do.”

Elite players earn their lofty status for an ability to consistently dominant week in and week out, regardless of the opponent. Once upon a time, that was who Chandler Jones was for this Arizona football franchise. For this Cardinal team to achieve new heights in 2021, they need Jones to once again become that player.

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