Pro Bowl talk: Respect for Budda, a potential opportunity for Kyler

Dec 18, 2019, 3:42 PM | Updated: 9:07 pm
Budda Baker (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)...
Budda Baker (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones has quietly gone about his business each of his three Pro Bowl seasons, and the seasons in which he wasn’t invited.

It wasn’t surprising that the NFL’s second-leading sack man got an invite to attend the 2020 NFL Pro Bowl on Tuesday.

Teammate Budda Baker, on the other hand, will make his first Pro Bowl as a defensive player — he made it as a rookie special-teamer in 2017. The 23-year-old is doing so in his first season playing as a full-time starting safety.

For a Cardinals team sitting at 4-9-1 and touting one of the statistically poorer defenses NFL-wide, the duo making it as Pro Bowl starters is the ultimate sign of respect.

“Budda makes everyone look slow on the field. He outruns everyone,” Jones said Wednesday, interrupting Baker to answer a question about the safety. “You can’t coach that. You can’t coach effort.”

The numbers and the tape would allude to that being true.

Baker is tied for sixth in the NFL with 125 tackles and is one of just two safeties (Eric Reid, Panthers) among the league’s top-13 tacklers in terms of volume. The rest of those players are linebackers.

Jones, meanwhile, has 45 total tackles with 15.0 sacks and six forced fumbles. He’s behind only Tampa Bay’s Shaquille Barrett’s 16.5 sacks to this point.

“It feels good to earn respect from your peers,” Jones said. “Things didn’t go how we wanted them to this year. To get that recognition, it means a lot for sure.”

Murray has shot at invite

Linebacker and special teams ace Dennis Gardeck, kicker Zane Gonzalez and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray all earned alternate designations for the Pro Bowl.

For Murray, an invite to the Jan. 26 game in Orlando looks possible depending on how the NFC playoff bracket fills out and unfolds.

Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, Drew Brees from the New Orleans Saints and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers are the three quarterbacks initially listed on the Pro Bowl rosters. If any of them aren’t available, Murray could find himself playing in the All-Star event.

“If he could be around one of those veteran quarterbacks and see their approach to the game and how they interact with teammates and carry themselves, that’s something you can’t put a price on,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said of the potential value of Murray heading to the Pro Bowl.

“Just him stepping into that arena and dealing with a bunch of other All-Pro-type players and how he handles them, it’d be fantastic.”

Murray said he would enjoy going to the Pro bowl to soak it in.

As for the actual playing in it, his game fits such a pick-up atmosphere.

Kingsbury, however, might not be keen on watching his franchise quarterback run around in a meaningless game. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be appealing to the fans.

“I think he’d love to go out there and run around,” Kingsbury said. “Those guys are all kind of going half-(expletive) out there anyway, so I think he could really show out. He would try to put on a show, that’s for sure.”

Extra points

— A lot has been made over the past few weeks about Murray’s growth as a leader. He says it just took time to get to know his teammates and win their trust. Now, Jones said Murray isn’t afraid to call out his teammates for mistakes. Last week, Murray’s tackle on the Browns’ Mack Wilson just after the quarterback threw a pick to the linebacker stood out to teammates.

“I ran up to Kyler and I like grabbed him and I said, ‘Good (expletive) play,” Baker said. “Just to see that he cares, you know, we’re not going to the playoffs, we have two games left and for him to do that, being the number one pick … a lot of respect that we have for him.”

— It sounds like the Cardinals see rookie defensive back Byron Murphy more as a nickelback than a No. 1 or No. 2 corner. Kingsbury was asked if they would like to push Murphy more toward a nickelback role with next year in mind:

“To me, it’s been tough, him having to play corner and play half the season going against their best wideouts, that’s a tall task for him,” Kingsbury said. “We drafted him to be that nickel-type body. He’s a ballhawk around the football, he can do different things and he’s been playing really out of position, which has been good for him.

“He’s had to grow up a bunch and face some ups and downs, and I think it’ll pay dividends down the road, but it hasn’t always been exactly fair to him throwing him out there in some of those situations.”

— Kingsbury said outside linebacker Haason Reddick is considered day-to-day heading into Sunday’s penultimate game against the Seattle Seahawks.

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