The Arizona Cardinals have the most productive pass rusher in the NFL since 2012 in Chandler Jones. He is 31 years old and is coming off a season-ending biceps tear that limited him to only five games in 2020.
Even with his age and the injury, he still is considered one of the best pass rusher in the game.
Using votes from players, coaches and league executives, ESPN ranked the top pass rushers entering this season. Jones, who was No. 2 a year ago, comes in at No. 5.
Jones’ injury-shortened 2020 season doesn’t discount his standing among the game’s best.
He fell three spots after missing 11 games with a biceps injury that required surgery. He finished the year with one sack and seven quarterback pressures.
But no pass-rusher has been more consistent when healthy than Jones, who averaged 14.5 sacks per season from 2014-19. And his game should translate to multiple high-level years in Arizona, evaluators agree.
“I still don’t understand why the Patriots let him go,” an AFC defensive coach said. “His bend, hands and flexibility are still elite. Most guys his size [6-foot-5, 265 pounds] aren’t flexible, but he gets lower than you’d think and that tackles can’t handle. And I don’t think a bicep injury will change that.”
He enters the final year of his contract and did not participate in the team’s on-field work during OTAs or minicamp.
The Cardinals have given him some help up front. Adding J.J. Watt, bring back Markus Golden and having a healthy Jordan Phillips should make it much more difficult for opposing teams to double-team Jones, which, in turn, should make it easier for him to get sacks.
Based on his offseason workouts, the biceps isn’t an issue. The issue now is whether he, at age 31, has the same explosiveness off the ball and quickness to go with violent hands and flexibility.
Will he get 20 sacks in 2021? He just missed it in 2019. If there is production from others, it will be tough to reach, but another year of 10-15 should be fairly easy to achieve.
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