Despite having a down year in 2016 in terms of their overall record, the Arizona Cardinals continued to show that their defense is a force to be reckoned with. The Cards were #2 in the NFL in yards per game allowed, including #4 in passing yards allowed per game and #9 in rushing yards allowed per game. Being top 10 in all of these categories means you have a pretty good defense.
Part of the reason for their defensive success falls on the shoulders of their pass rush, specifically from the outside linebacker position. Markus Golden and Chandler Jones proved to be one of the more formidable tandems in the NFL. In fact, Pro Football Focus lists Jones as being one of the absolute best at his position.
Chandler Jones added a completely new dimension to the Cardinals pass rush pic.twitter.com/XGE5cBNcsG— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 3, 2017
Both Golden and Jones played off each other so well, allowing Golden to lead the team in sacks and Jones to lead the NFL in pressures from the right side among 3-4 linebackers.
Of course, some of this dimension could change with the departure of Calais Campbell. Eating up blocks on the inside, Jones and Golden were given space to roam and only had one on one matchups most of the time. That isn’t to say someone like Rodney Gunter or Robert Nkemdiche can’t step up to fill Campbell’s role, but we haven’t seen any evidence to support that as of yet.
Either way, I still expect Jones and Golden to have dominant years once again in 2017. They are going to be perennial double digit sack guys for as long as they are here and playing off one another.