ESPN poll: 3 Cardinals defensive players are top-10 at their position
Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson and Budda Baker will provide the backbone for the Arizona Cardinals’ defense to leap from a bottom-five unit in 2019 to something closer to respectability.
Each of them were named by an ESPN panel of more than 50 players, coaches, executives and scouts as top-10 players at their positions heading into the 2020 season.
Jones ranked as the second-best edge rusher on the list, trailing only the Chicago Bears’ Khalil Mack.
It helps Jones is coming off a season of 19.0 sacks and eight forced fumbles.
“His rush skill set is as diverse and versatile as anybody I’ve been around,” a longtime NFL defensive coach told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. “You don’t see it as much with the way they use him in Arizona, but he is an excellent interior pass-rusher and they don’t put him in there very much.
“He’s more than capable rushing inside. Unbelievable flexibility and body control. Uses hands very well, student of the game. He’s got everything.”
Despite a down season, Peterson ranked seventh among cornerbacks in the poll.
Though an anonymous coordinator who was polled warned that the 30-year-old might see a drop-off in production this year, the person added that Peterson “no doubt” remains an above-average athlete and among the best corners in the game.
Peterson came on strong late in 2019. He pulled in two picks with seven passes defensed and 46 tackles, plus added a key forced fumble that helped Arizona beat the New York Giants in his debut after a PED suspension.
And at safety, Pro Bowler Budda Baker earned credit for his reputation as a relentless playmaker. While he’s entering the fourth year of his NFL career, Baker’s yet to intercept a pass but piled up 147 tackles with six passes defensed.
“That little joker is a bullet,” an NFL passing game coordinator told Fowler. “He’s out there knocking bigger dudes around. He moved two running backs in a game I watched.”