Then and now: Cardinals can hope OLB is more than the Chandler Jones show

Jul 3, 2020, 7:02 AM

Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks is sacked by linebacker Chandler Jones #55 of...

Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks is sacked by linebacker Chandler Jones #55 of the Arizona Cardinals in the second quarter at CenturyLink Field on December 22, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals believe they’ve plugged holes and built depth. On paper they look improved, though they’ve yet to hit the practice field due to the coronavirus.

They speak about flashes of offensive brilliance last year, the growth of quarterback Kyler Murray and a thinly manned defense’s improvements to end 2019 as reasons to be optimistic about 2020.

But the biggest reason for optimism is the upgraded roster. How different does this 2020 roster really look compared to the one that began the first training camp under head coach Kliff Kingsbury?

By position, here’s a then-and-now comparison of the roster last offseason next to the current 2020 Cardinals team based on our 2019 July preview series leading into 2019 training camp.


2019 projected starters

Chandler Jones, Terrell Suggs


Brooks Reed, Cameron Malveaux, Vontarrius Dora, Pita Taumoepenu

Biggest storyline: Jones and Suggs can pin their ears back in Vance Joseph’s 3-4

X-factor: Terrell Suggs’ impact in his 17th season


Projected starters

Chandler Jones, Devon Kennard


Isaiah Simmons (?), Haason Reddick, Kylie Fitts, Vontarrius Dora

Biggest storyline

OLB Devon Kennard (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Patrick Peterson always gets the asterisk about his low interception numbers. It’s hard for P2 to find picks when nobody throws it his way. He’s still hoping a healthy Robert Alford can give Arizona a solid No. 2 corner and lead to quarterbacks challenging him with a competent coverage man on the other side of the field.

Perhaps not enough attention, then, goes to pass-rusher Chandler Jones, who over the last few years hasn’t had an effective edge rusher garnering attention on the other side of the line. Since Markus Golden’s 12.5-sack season opposite Jones in 2016, Jones has been supplemented by pass-rushers including Kareem Martin, Benson Mayowa, Golden coming off an ACL injury, an aging Suggs and a production-lacking Cassius Marsh.

No disrespect to them, but on paper, offseason signee Devon Kennard looks like Jones’ best edge teammate in the past few years.

Kennard, 29, is coming off his second consecutive 7.0-sack campaign and expects to have more opportunities playing in Joseph’s system.

“Playing in Detroit was the first time I got to rush more often and even with that said, I think I was top two or three — I dropped more than any outside linebacker in the league,” Kennard said on March 23. “I still dropped a lot more than most guys at my position.”

If Kennard can produce even what he did as a Lion the past two years in Arizona’s more aggressive defense, it should translate to better success across the front seven.

Put it like this: Suggs, Marsh, Haason Reddick and Brooks Reed combined for 10.0 sacks last season.

If Kennard by himself can sniff that total, it’ll be a win for the Cardinals even if Jones can’t get close to topping the 19.0 quarterback takedowns from a year ago.


(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

How much will rookie inside linebacker Isaiah Simmons impact the pass-rushing game? That’s the big question regardless of what position you want to peg him as.

No, don’t expect the first-round pick to sit back in coverage too often as a cornerback or safety. Expect that he’ll play mostly as an inside linebacker.

On the other side of his spectrum of versatility, how often could he be used as an outside linebacker? Whether that’s as a disguised blitzer who will drop back into coverage or as a true pass-rusher, Simmons could command snaps away from the outside linebackers or interior defensive linemen.

With fellow inside linebackers De’Vondre Campbell and Jordan Hicks in the fold, Simmons could join them on the field using his 6-foot-4, 238-pound frame and 4.38-second 40-yard dash speed to rush. He tallied 8.0 sacks in his final season at Clemson.

“I’ve seen him pass-rush and, obviously, when you’re a blitzer, you have to have some kind of pass-rushing technique,” Joseph said this offseason. “If they have a blocker for you — which in this league they probably will most of the time — you have to have some technique to make moves and flip (the opponent’s) hips to be a pass-rusher. I’ve seen him do that. I’ve also seen him rush when he’s clean.

“I’ve seen him also beat backs and tight ends one-to-one as a pass-rusher, so he’s both. I mean, when you’re that tall and long with that kind of burst, being a blitzer or pass-rusher, it’s kind of one and the same.”

Presented By
Western Governors University

Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray...

Tyler Drake

Arizona Cardinals ‘nothing but impressed’ with QB Kyler Murray entering Year 6

Cardinals owner Michael Bidwilll and general manager Monti Ossenfort are pleased with what Kyler Murray is bringing to the table.

1 day ago

Zaven Collins celebrates...

Tyler Drake

Zaven Collins’ 5th-year option around $13 million if picked up by Cardinals

Given where Zaven Collins slots in on the fifth-year option tiers, the Cardinals would be on the hook for $13.2 million if they pick it up.

2 days ago

Arizona Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort talks with head coach Michael Bidwill...

Tyler Drake

Bidwill: Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort has resources necessary to attack free agency

Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill is excited for what GM Monti Ossenfort has cooking when it comes to 2024 free agency.

3 days ago

Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill in the Arizona Sports studio...

Jesse Morrison

Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill gushes about GM Monti Ossenfort 1 year into job

Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill seems pleased with how general manager Monti Ossenfort and head coach Jonathan Gannon have done so far.

3 days ago

Presented By...

Arizona Sports Video

Video: Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill talks belief in Monti Ossenfort and Jonathan Gannon

Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill joined Bickley & Marotta for Newsmakers Week and talked about his belief in Monti Ossenfort and Jonathan Gannon.

3 days ago

Rome Odunze celebrates...

Tyler Drake

Jeremiah: Cardinals can’t go wrong with any of top 3 WR NFL Draft prospects

When it comes down to the top three wide-receiving draft prospects,'s Daniel Jeremiah sees nothing but No. 1 WR potential.

3 days ago

Then and now: Cardinals can hope OLB is more than the Chandler Jones show