TEMPE – How much better new Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones can perform in 2016 is unknown.
But he’s going to give it a try.
And that work begins now.
Monday, in fact.
The Cardinals began their offseason strength and conditioning program and Jones was among the players — remember it’s voluntary — at the facility for day one of a scheduled two weeks.
Stretching and weightlifting were followed by agility exercises out on the practice fields; the latter of which Jones, acquired last month from New England, is most focused on here in what the NFL calls Phase 1 of its offseason work.
“Not just speed and strength, but they’ve been also helping me with my flexibility as well,” he said, referring to Cardinals strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris and his assistant Roger Kingdom, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. “That’s one thing that they looked at me and they saw that I was a little bit stiff. Buddy and Roger have been doing a tremendous job. So far just the one week that I’ve been here they’re already working on my flexibility, so hopefully we can see that in some of my game as well.”
Flexibility is something Jones said he’s worked on before, but the Cardinals’ program is different “as far as in a different way” than he’s done in the past.
“Remember this, I don’t care how strong you get if you can’t move, you can’t help us. Really the foundation of our program is securing biomechanical efficiency and periods of fatigue and making sure our athletes are able to move,” he said. “We’re not a bunch of powerlifters, we’re not Olympic lifters or bodybuilders, we’re athletes, and the greatest commonality amongst all great athletes is movement and that’s what we’re working on.”
Getting Jones moving better, perhaps even quicker off the line of scrimmage, is expected to help Jones transition easier from defensive end (where he played with the Patriots) to outside linebacker, where the Cardinals plan to put the 6-foot-5, 265-pound former first-round draft pick.
“It’s something not as new to me, but there’s some new things that I’ll have to get familiar with and I’m excited about the challenge,” he said.
Jones, 26, called standing near the line of scrimmage “not foreign to me” but he spent much of his first four seasons in the league with his hand in the dirt.
“Standing up you have a lot of limitations, but you also have advantages,” he said. “It’s very, I would say, advantageous that you can stand up because you can see over the offensive line. You can see the different sets that the backfield are giving you. I like standing up, I do.”
Last season, Jones finished fifth in the NFL with 12.5 sacks, earning himself his first-ever Pro Bowl nod.
Pass rush was the Cardinals’ top priority this offseason, and they parted with a 2016 second-round pick and guard Jonathan Cooper to acquire Jones’ services; perhaps providing them with that missing piece to vault the team past the NFC Championship Game and into the Super Bowl.
“Any team, out of all 32 teams in the NFL, I feel like your goal should be winning the Super Bowl; if not then you shouldn’t be playing,” Jones said. “The Cardinals had a chance last year and hopefully with the addition of me and the other guys that maybe we can take it there.”
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