His sack total is sexy, but Chandler Jones focuses on a complete game
TEMPE, Ariz. — Chandler Jones won’t deny that setting the Cardinals’ single-season franchise sack record would be a cool holiday present.
“It would be very, very cool to have my name in the record books forever, or at least a long time,” he said Thursday. “It would be something I could always tell my kids about.”
Jones needs two sacks in the Cardinals’ final two games — Christmas Eve against the New York Giants and New Year’s Eve at Seattle — to break Simeon Rice’s mark of 16.5 set in 1999. But a few other stats fill Jones with equal pride.
He also leads the league in tackles for loss (25), QB hits (30) and he is second in run stuffs (11) to Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney (12).
“Honestly, that’s what I’ve been focusing on, just being consistent throughout the season in all areas,” he said. “It’s easy to get sidetracked or complacent, saying ‘I’ve got 10 sacks, I’m good.’ But there’s two games this whole season where I haven’t got a sack and in those two games I still got to the quarterback pretty often.”
Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher has been touting Jones’ candidacy (along with Patrick Peterson’s) for NFL Defensive Player of the Year for several weeks.
“We move Chandler all over the place and we ask him to rush as a three (technique). We ask him to rush outside. We ask him to drop in space at times. There’s not guys doing what he’s doing,” Bettcher said. “The longer the games goes, the more snaps he gets, the better he is.”
Two of the knocks on Jones from his four seasons in New England were that he didn’t sustain pressure throughout games, or faded late in games; that he racked up superficial sack stats. Jones said he’s worked to alter that perception, which is a partial acknowledgment that some of it was true.
“The funny thing is, a lot of it is [Bettcher],” Jones said. “I’m getting familiar with his play calling and I know what he’s calling for me before he calls it. He’s blitzing and giving me one-on-ones. The more one-on-ones he can give me? Thank you! If you give me one-on-ones with a guy, I’m going to try to dominate that matchup every time.
Jones said dropping 15 pounds from 270 to 255 has helped.
“I lost weight but I’m improving in stopping the run and setting the edge because I’m smarter,” he said. “I know how to place my hands and take certain angles to set the edge faster.”
When Jones, 27, signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract ($53 million in guarantees) with the Cardinals in March, there were some analysts who wondered if they would get enough production from him. Jones is a more complete player than he was last season, so it’s fair to wonder just how much more he would command on the open market if he were available this offseason.
He does yoga and Pilates, MMA training with his brother, Jon, and Bettcher raves about his study habits.
“He’s a relentless studier of his opponents so he’s going to look and understand how they pass set, how they’re going to look in terms of protection, where the back is and what he’s going to get,” Bettcher said. “You may study those things during the week, but when the game plan that they have to help protect against him, when that starts showing up in the game, he’s a guy that’s on the sideline looking at, ‘when I get the tackle here, when the back’s offset here, this is what I’m getting.
“He’s so aware of those things in the course of the game and that’s what helps him play better and better as the game progresses.”
Jones admits to taking satisfaction in his improvement, but he wants more.
“You could say I’ve played well enough and I’ve been happy with it, but I’m not satisfied,” he said. “There are so many plays that I’m leaving out there on the field, so many times I’ve slipped off the QB.
“I know guys say that but if you watch the film, it’s true. A lot of that is on me. I’ve got to play better. I’ve got to finish plays. I’ve got to take the quarterback down. I can do more to help us win games.”