Making up for lost time: Chandler Jones felt a big game coming vs. Titans
Week 1 usually comes with a bit of rust for NFL players.
That was certainly not the case for Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones on Sunday.
In his first game since he went down with a season-ending biceps injury last October, Jones put the league on notice with five sacks, two forced fumbles and six tackles in the Cardinals’ 38-13 win over the Titans. For his efforts, Jones picked up his fifth NFC Defensive Player of the Week honor of his career and fourth with the Cardinals.
If there were any question marks surrounding Jones’ play, he answered them real quick.
“I had a feeling [it was gonna be one of those games],” Jones said Wednesday in his first interview with the media this season. “We had a good week of practice, I had a good week of practice and it showed out on the field for sure.”
Jones was in Tennessee’s backfield early and often, first getting to Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill for a strip-sack midway through the first quarter. Corey Peters nearly scooped and scored, going down at the one-yard line before quarterback Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins found pay dirt a few plays later.
It was a sign of things to come for Jones over the course of the first 15 minutes of play, who would add two more sacks before quarter’s end.
He was far from done, recording two more sacks and one last forced fumble before calling it a day.
Jones celebrated sack No. 5 by making it rain, a nod to his current contract situation.
— NFL (@NFL) September 12, 2021
The money-inspired celebration appeared to pour over onto the sideline during a conversation with general manger Steve Keim and owner Michael Bidwill.
“I was patting [Keim’s] pockets for sure,” Jones said with a smile when asked about the sideline exchange. “He knows what that means.”
While five sacks in a game is an impressive feat for anyone, Jones’ play wasn’t that shocking to those closest to him.
Working out with Jones throughout the spring and summer, running back Chase Edmonds wasn’t surprised one bit by his “big bro’s” performance.
“I got to have a first row, front seat to just watch Chandler Jones grind every single day. … Every single day he went in and busted his tail off,” Edmonds said Tuesday.
“You could tell it was personal to him this year. He wanted to come back and really remind everyone of who he was. … Just a technician and a guy who’s going to be great for a long, long time.”
Chandler Jones is focused on “just playing football” when asked if this season is personal for the LB: pic.twitter.com/65JknX7Zk6
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) September 15, 2021
The linebacker is the sixth player since 2002 to compile at least five sacks and two or more forced fumbles in a game.
Jones is just the third player since 1982 to record at least five sacks in Week 1. Derrick Thomas made six sacks in 1998, while Bill Gay put up 5.5 sacks in 1983.
A resurgent Jones paired with a stout line only helps a defense looking to take a step forward in 2021.
“That’s crazy, five sacks in a game, that’s not something that you see very often,” linebacker Isaiah Simmons told Cardinals reporter Paul Calvisi on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station following the game Sunday. “Maybe you’ll see that once in a decade.
“I’ve actually been able to witness it twice, one last year with Hasson Reddick and one this year with Chandler. J.J. [Watt] and Chandler, they make things easier for us guys in the back. I love it. I love playing behind two probably potential Hall of Famers.”
Even Jones’ main competition in the trenches Sunday had to give props to the linebacker.
You definitely don’t see that — or five sacks from a single human for that matter — every day.
It speaks to the magnitude of Jones’ presence in Arizona’s defense.
“Just his physicality from the start,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday. “Very first play of the game, hops on the side and makes a tremendous tackle for loss on [Derrick] Henry and really set the tone for our entire defense. … He was outstanding.”