Cardinals feed off high standards for DE Chandler Jones

Oct 11, 2018, 3:54 PM
San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard (3) passes as Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Ch...
San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard (3) passes as Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones (55) applies pressure during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Maybe it was coincidence.

But probably not.

Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones didn’t feel like he played his best game Sunday in a 28-18 win over the San Francisco 49ers, but he certainly played his most impactful one of the 2018 season.

It just so happened that performance led to Arizona’s first win in five games so far.

Jones recorded six tackles, 1.0 sack, plus a fumble recovery and a batted down pass on a two-point conversion that would have tied the game 14-14 in the middle of the fourth quarter.

All that earned Jones the NFC Defensive Player of the Week honor, but for defensive coordinator Al Holcomb, it was just a day of his star defensive end meeting expectations.

“The standard that he put on tape this past week is what the standard is,” Holcomb said. “That’s the expectation level for him. We talk about that each and every day. He can wreck a game.

“Probably the biggest thing with that is when you have one of your leaders, one of your star players perform as he did, it picks up the other 10 men in the huddle. They’re trying to match his intensity, his play and his production.”

That couldn’t be more true Sunday in San Francisco, as four other Cardinals joined Jones in forcing five 49ers turnovers.

But it’s Jones’ big-play day that for the first time this year caught national attention that usually comes naturally for a star who led the NFL with 17.0 sacks last year to follow up an 11.0-sack season in his first year with Arizona.

Jones isn’t comfortable. He said he has a sense of urgency considering his team’s slow start.

“I can sit back and watch that game and pick out plays that I left out there,” Jones said Thursday with a visit to Minnesota on deck. “There’s never a perfect game. For it to be an individual accolade, that’s a team effort. For that sack, I had guys being covered. Linebackers were taking up blocks. There’s definitely plays I left out there.

“As far as that being the standard, that’s for (Holcomb) to grade.”

It’s not like Jones had been poor this season prior to Week 5. He’d already recorded 3.0 sacks, two passes defensed and a forced fumble.

But that wasn’t enough for last year’s NFL sacks leader to garner much attention, especially with Arizona losing its first four games of the season. That the Cardinals needed five turnovers to eek out a win over an injury-riddled San Francisco team might overshadow the fact that their defense has been up and down to this point.

“The thing that’s really frustrating, to be honest … there were plays where we created negative plays in the run game on first and second down,” Holcomb said when asked if he’s been frustrated about the slow-to-come-around defense. “Minus 1 (yard), boom! Minus 2, boom! Plus 17.

“There’s inconsistency right now,” he added. “I’ve showed the players those plays. We’ve gone through it and we’re trying to address it and correct it each and every day.”

Not that Arizona won’t take winning the turnover battle 5-0. And not that the Cardinals won’t take more big games from one of their best players.

They just want to build on it, and Jones knows a lot is on him to meet expectations that for others would look unrealistic.

“My biggest thing each and every season is earning my respect and trust from my peers, my coworkers, this locker room, coaches, training staff. Everyone around here,” Jones said.

“I wouldn’t say this is my best football, no.”

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