GLENDALE, Ariz. — When Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones discusses the joy of the sack, the double meaning is intended.
“It’s right up there with sex,” Jones said, laughing. “They’re both very high on the list.”
Jones isn’t concerned with which one ranks higher.
“I can’t compare them,” he said. “One’s work and one is pleasure.”
If everything goes according to plan for Jones this season, he’ll be drawing a great deal of pleasure from his work. The Cardinals acquired the 26-year-old pass rushing specialist in March for underachieving guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick. The team had been looking to add a young, elite pass rusher for the past several seasons, but that commodity is one of the most difficult to find.
“He’s long and he’s everything that you thought he was,” coach Bruce Arians said Sunday. “He’s a great worker. I’m glad he’s on our team right now. I think he’s going to have a great year.”
In four NFL seasons, Jones has 36 sacks, including a career-high 12.5 last season for New England. The chance for Jones, defensive end Calais Campbell and outside linebacker Markus Golden to play off each other this season has the trio dreaming of the endless opportunities ahead.
“Oh yeah,” Campbell said. “The sky is the limit this year and it could really be a big year for all of us.
“Chandler and I will probably get a lot of protections sliding our way, but then Markus has been dominant on the other side as well so when you have a team full of guys who are playmakers, you just pick your poison. You can only stop so many of us.”
Jones understands his role clearly, and aside from winning and the aforementioned, extra-curricular activity, there is nothing he would rather do than sack the quarterback.
“It’s a great feeling, honestly,” he said “You get an adrenaline rush after driving the quarterback into the grass.”
Of the 36 sacks Jones has recorded, two stand out. Last season, he was double-teamed in Miami.
“It was a three-man rush and they had an eight-man protection,” he said. “I split between two guys and I sacked Ryan Tannehill. I liked that move.”
Then there was the sack he produced in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale.
“There’s nothing like a Super Bowl sack, and now I’m playing in that same stadium,” he said. “I was actually playing a 4-technique, a defensive end in a 3-4. I got off the ball quick and I just beat my guy off the ball, swiped him, ran Russell Wilson down and got up and did a little dance.”
Jones always has a gameplan for how he’s going to attack an offensive line, but much of that plan evolves over the course of a game.
“First, you look at alignments, then assignments then it’s about execution,” he said. “A lot of times, you have everything in your mind that you want to do but it almost never goes as planned.
“With good offensive tackles, they change their sets so I’m more of a reactionary rusher — whatever they give I take. I go through a series of moves depending on what he gives, and then I’ll decide this is what I need to do because this is his weak point. I don’t care how good you are, you’re going to have some weak points in your game and throughout that first half I’m trying to find it, if I don’t know it already.”
Jones always knows when he’s in an opponent’s head.
“Not after the first time you beat a guy, but for me, after I beat a guy inside a couple times I know, ‘now I’ve got this guy,'” he said. “For an offensive lineman to give away his inside, that’s the cardinal sin. If you can do that you have him right where you want him.”
Some players rehearse their sack dances ahead of time for maximum choreography. Jones is an ad-libber who normally opts for spontaneous celebrations.
“I know a lot of people try to brainstorm and plot them out, but mostly I just try to do whatever comes to mind or whatever I saw that looked cool the week before,” he said.
When Jones finally reaches his goal, he said there are no words to describe the joy feels after recording a sack.
“No,” he said. “It’s just raw emotion.”
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