Chan­dler Jones says he can still do more for Ari­zona Car­di­nals.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

TEMPE, Ariz. — With his MMA-trained hands knock­ing would-be tack­lers out of the way, Chan­dler Jones has qui­etly be­come one of the best de­fen­sive play­ers in the NFL.

The league sack leader with a fran­chise-record 17 last sea­son as an out­side line­backer, Jones has switched to de­fen­sive end in the team’s new scheme and is ha­rass­ing quar­ter­backs as well or bet­ter than he has in the past.

Take last week’s 28-18 vic­tory at San Fran­cisco, for ex­am­ple. Jones had 6 tack­les, a sack, 2 tack­les for loss, 2 quar­ter­back hits, a forced fum­ble, a fum­ble re­cov­ery and a pass swat­ted down (pre­vent­ing a two-point con­ver­sion). He was named NFC de­fen­sive player of the week for his per­for­mance.

“The stan­dard that he put on tape this past week is what the stan­dard is,” de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Al Hol­comb said. “That’s the ex­pec­ta­tion level for him. And we talk about that each and ev­ery day, be­ing at his best on game day, com­ing to play and im­pact­ing the game be­cause he can wreck a game.”

But Jones said he was nowhere near his best against the 49ers.

“I wouldn’t say this is my best foot­ball,” Jones said. “A lot of peo­ple might say that, but there were a lot of plays on Sun­day that I left out there. I wish I could get them back. But that’s the thing about foot­ball, you have the op­por­tu­nity to cor­rect those mis­takes.”

Next up is a matchup with the Vik­ings on Sun­day in Min­nesota, where the Car­di­nals will have to deal with Kirk Cousins and an ar­ray of big­play re­ceivers.

Jones ex­pects a lot of at­ten­tion.

“You’re al­ways get­ting dou­ble-teamed, be­ing a pass rusher,” he said. “You just have to be aware.”

In the off­sea­son, Jones trains with his brother, MMA fighter Jon “Bones” Jones. It’s helped his en­durance, Jones said, and “pretty much hand speed.”

“When you play the sport of foot­ball, who­ever has the faster hands wins,” he said.

Hol­comb said that when Jones plays like he did last week­end, it rubs off on every­one around him.

It “picks up the other 10 men in the hud­dle,” Hol­comb said. “And they’re try­ing to match his in­ten­sity and his play and his pro­duc­tion.”

The Car­di­nals sent guard Jonathan Cooper and a sec­ond-round pick to ac­quire Jones in 2016. A year later, Ari­zona signed Jones to a five-year, $83 mil­lion con­tract with $53 mil­lion guar­an­teed. He’s lived up to that kind of pay­check.

Since 2016, Jones has 32 sacks, more than any­one else in the NFL. Von Miller is sec­ond with 271/2. He had seven more tack­les for loss last sea­son than any other player, in ad­di­tion to lead­ing the league in sacks. But he does it with­out any bravado.

“He’s one of the premier de­fen­sive ends in the Na­tional Foot­ball League,” Hol­comb said. “He goes about his busi­ness in a quiet-type fash­ion, which is fine. If he con­tin­ues to play like this, which we’re count­ing on him do­ing, the recog­ni­tion will come.”

Jones said the ac­co­lades don’t mean much.

“I get that ques­tion all the time about not get­ting na­tional recog­ni­tion,” he said. “My big­gest thing each and ev­ery sea­son, even when I was back in New Eng­land, is just earn­ing the re­spect and the trust from my peers, my co-work­ers, this locker room, the coaches, the train­ing staff, every­one around here. I feel if I can get trust from those guys, I have those guys telling me ‘You’re do­ing a good job,’ then I’m happy.”

Jones

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