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Cardinals’ Chandler Jones prideful of awkward package of pass-rush moves

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - AUGUST 25: Linebacker Chandler Jones #55 of the Arizona Cardinals runs drills during a NFL team training camp at State Farm Stadium on August 25, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

There are handfuls of YouTube video like this one that break down the series of moves that Arizona Cardinals edge rusher Chandler Jones uses on a single play and within 3 seconds of a snap.

There are technical labels and counters to stop them, of course, but few offensive lines have since he joined Arizona in 2016. Jones’ 96.0 sacks since he entered the NFL in 2012 lead the league, and last year, Jones dropped quarterbacks 19 times, adding eight forced fumbles.

What has made him so good for so long?

During one open portion of practice this past training camp, Jones cut inside the opposing tackle and with a weird twist eluded the guard to smack the quarterback’s arm down. The tackle and the guard were upside-down trash cans, and the quarterback was a padded dummy.

Linebackers coach Bill Davis promised Jones that a real human at guard would have blocked him. Jones didn’t buy it.

Whoever is correct, maybe that creativity can explain why Jones is so successful.

His moves are something between a James Harden behind-the-back sidestep and a baseball pitcher making his stuff look the exact same coming out of the glove until it’s too late.

“I actually pride myself in being unique,” Jones told reporters Friday. “I’m not sure if you guys — well you guys do watch film, but a lot of my moves, you don’t see them across the league. A lot of times you’ll see me doing unorthodox moves: jumping and twisting and turning.

“A lot of my moves, they look the same,” he added. “I try to have the same exact look so teams can’t determine what I’m going to do, or an offensive line can’t get a beat of what I’m going to do. A lot of my moves, it’s all from film watching and I say, ‘What if I do that with the same step but do this this time?’ Usually spin-offs of the same thing.”

Technique and smarts, of course, play a role. Being an athletic freak helps, too.

Jones’ combination of size — 6-foot-5 with a reported plus 7-foot wingspan — and power can be “awkward,” as Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph put it.

“I think Chandler’s body type is so unique as an outside backer with his height and his length and his long strides with his pass-rush moves,” Joseph said Thursday. “You can’t compare Chandler to any rusher in the league when it comes to measurements and style.

“His style is a combination of awkwardness, length, power and know-how.”

Joseph said the Cardinals even worked on Jones’ stance off the line to shorten his steps. Too often he’s take three steps on the rush and end up behind the opposing quarterback. They’ll take the few disadvantages that come with it.

Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries, who faces Jones every practice, knows how much the pass-rusher puts into the strategy of his attacking style. Jones doesn’t just bull-rush his way into smaller tackles or speed around lumbering ones.

“He’s one of those guys, the ways that he pass-rushes is kind of reactionary,” Humphries said. “He’s so athletic and rangy but he has a plan at the same time.”


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