All throughout the Ken Whisenhunt era, there were always 3 positions that the Arizona Cardinals could never seem to address: quarterback, offensive tackle and defensive end/outside linebacker. When Bruce Arians came on board, two of those things were fixed rather quickly with the trade for Carson Palmer and the signing of tackle Jared Veldheer.
But the one thing this team was still missing was a dominant outside linebacker for their 3-4 scheme that could take advantage of all the attention Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell took on. That remained the case until prior to the 2016 season when general manager Steve Keim made the move to trade for linebacker Chandler Jones for a second round pick.
Jones, now in his second year in the desert and with a new contract in hand, has looked incredibly dominant. Through 11 games, he has 12 sacks and is well on his way to a monster end to the season. Even more, the Cardinals have lost a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball and he is still managing to put up these big numbers. Calais Campbell is gone (a stalwart along the defensive line) and Markus Golden has been out most of the year with injury.
So with all of this in mind, it begs the question: is Jones the best pass rusher in Arizona Cardinals history?
To me, it’s a yes. It hasn’t even been quite two seasons, but the havoc Jones causes on the outside is undisputed. Since coming to Arizona, Jones has the most sacks and most tackles for loss of any player in the NFL during that span (per Mark Dalton of the Arizona Cardinals). Not to mention, Jones is also excellent in run support. His length and speed cause so many issues for opposing offensive lines and his ability to track down the quarterback is unparalleled.
The Cardinals have had a few successful pass rushers since they moved to Arizona. Ken Harvey, Simeon Rice, Eric Swann, Dockett and Campbell are all guys who have done it and did it for a longer period of time in Arizona than Jones has. But watching Jones do what he does with such ease, one has to think his best play is still in front of him.
So yes, it’s a little early to be calling this race. And this opinion could come back to bite me. But I am saying it now: Arizona has the pass rushing position locked down for the next 5-7 years and we could be set to witness, statistically, the best sack artist ever to don a Cardinals uniform.