‘Zen master’ Chandler Jones presents tough obstacle for Arizona Cardinals

Sep 14, 2022, 1:04 PM

Raiders efensive end Chandler Jones...

Defensive end Chandler Jones #55 and defensive tackle Kyle Peko #92 of the Las Vegas Raiders warm up before a preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings at Allegiant Stadium on August 14, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated Vikings the 26-20. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

TEMPE — Quarterback Kyler Murray and outside linebacker Chandler Jones loved to chirp at one another on social media or during press conferences last season.

Whether it was Murray calling out Jones’ physique once his shirt came off or the pass rusher likening the signal caller to Baby Yoda, the two former Arizona Cardinals teammates were usually going back and forth throughout any given week.

Week 2 presents yet another chance for the two to get some digs in. But this time, they’ll be lining up as opponents after Jones departed for the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency this past offseason.

“It’s going to be weird — different — seeing him in a new uniform but at the end of the day, he’s got one job, I got one job,” Murray said Wednesday. “We’ll be able to chop it up after the game but when we’re on the field it is what it is.”

“He’s a great dude,” the QB added. “One of the best teammates I had the pleasure to play with.”

Given the pair played together for three seasons, Murray has a good idea of what to expect from the Cardinals’ all-time sacks leader.

Practice only tells so much in a controlled environment, though. It won’t be until game day when Murray gets a grasp of what it’s really like to face Jones in live action.

But even though there’s no way to simulate game speed in practice, that doesn’t mean Murray doesn’t have an inkling as to what he’s up against when the team travels to Sin City.

“He’s a student of the game,” Murray said. “He loves it. He’s like a Zen master when it comes to the art of pass rushing and all the different ways to get to the quarterback.

“He loves to educate other up and coming pass rushers. … He just loves it. It’s hard not to respect that.”

All jokes aside, Jones has proven he can be an absolute game wrecker for opposing offenses. And you don’t have to go far to understand why.

Jones had little trouble making his mark in Arizona, posting five seasons of at least 10.5 sacks.

Only once in his Cardinals tenure did he not record double-digit sacks, but that was due to a season-ending biceps injury and just five games played in 2020.

He was named as an All-Pro twice and saw three Pro Bowl nods over his six-year stint in Arizona.

“He’s obviously a freak when you talk physicality. A special, special talent in that regard,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Wednesday. “He’s always thinking about the next move and the next play and how he’s going to beat a guy and how his hand placement is. … He names his pass rushes.

“He’s eaten up by getting home to the passer and I think that’s what gets lost because he’s such a talented player. He’s very cerebral. He puts a lot into the mindset and how he attacks it mentally each and every day.”

Jones won’t be the only dominant pass rusher the Cardinals have to contend with on Sunday, either.

Opposite Jones sits Maxx Crosby, a world beater in his own right, who put up eight sacks, 30 QB hits and seven passes defensed last season.

“They’ve got two Hall-of-Fame rushers and we understand that, so we got to have a good plan,” Kingsbury said.

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