PFF ranks Cardinals’ J.J. Watt, Chandler Jones as top-16 edge players

May 30, 2021, 8:18 AM
J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans looks on against the Tennessee Titans during a game at NRG Stad...
J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans looks on against the Tennessee Titans during a game at NRG Stadium on January 03, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Hype surrounding new Arizona Cardinals duo Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt is massive, and it has been validated by the most recent rankings from Pro Football Focus.

Out of 32 players listed, the football website ranks Watt (12th) and Jones (16th) as two of the best edge defenders entering the 2021 season.

When the Cardinals signed the former Houston Texan, there was a lot of excitement in the Valley. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who coached Watt in Houston, can’t wait to pair Watt and Jones together.

“There’s going to be times when they are on the same side of the defense,” Joseph said on the Big Red Rage in March.

“Most of the time having those guys split, it’s going to make the offense be honest in its protections.”

But with that excitement also comes speculation. Watt had a history of injuries, and some wonder if he can play full season without being on the injured reserve. Last season was his first injury-free season since 2014. He played all 16 games and finished with 52 tackles, 5.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception returned for a touchdown.

If he can remain healthy, PFF’s Ben Linsey thinks Watt can still be a dominant force for Arizona.

He might not quite be the same guy who put up four consecutive 90.0-plus PFF grades and won three Defensive Player of the Year trophies from 2012 to 2015, but he can still impact the game at a high level. Watt has been the third most valuable edge defender in the league since 2018, per PFF WAR.

After missing the majority of last season due to injury, Jones is looking to return even stronger and could have another productive season like 2019. He led the league with eight forced fumbles and ended with 53 tackles and 19.0 sacks. Jones was named First Team All-Pro, his second such honor with the Cardinals.

Linsey believes the Jones-Watt duo is important to cover for the Cardinals’ personnel flaws.

Jones appeared in just five games for Arizona in 2020, but he recorded a career-high 90.0 pass-rushing grade the last time he played a full season. He’s a key part of a talented front seven that may need to make life easier for a shaky cornerback group by speeding up opposing quarterbacks.

With just over two months until the start of training camp, the hype will only continue to build for the new duo. Since 2012, Jones and Watt rank first and second in total sacks, respectively.

They will play an integral role for the Cardinals this season, as Arizona looks to make its first playoff appearance since 2015.

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PFF ranks Cardinals’ J.J. Watt, Chandler Jones as top-16 edge players