Chandler Jones approaching Patriots ‘like another game’
TEMPE, Ariz. — Chandler Jones was not going to pretend that Sunday’s game against his former team, the New England Patriots, does not carry a little extra weight for him.
“Like I said in a previous interview, I had this one circled in a red marker,” he said after practice Wednesday. “But I’m excited to face the old team, and I’m excited. Very excited.”
Think he’s excited?
The Cardinals acquired Jones in a March trade that saw them part with guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick. In need of pass rush help, Arizona felt the 26-year-old who posted 12.5 sacks in 2015 and has amassed 36 in four NFL seasons could be a perfect fit.
Jones, who is entering the final season of his contract, has done nothing to disappoint in his first six months with the team.
“He’s added a big-time edge rusher,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He can set the edge in a run because of his length. But he’s added what we were looking for: a full-time edge pass rusher who can play both sides and can actually get inside and play three technique and has a lot of flexibility. He’s done a good job in coverage as an outside linebacker.”
Jones has been asked to play more outside linebacker in Arizona, meaning he is sometimes dropping into coverage and not always just asked to go after the quarterback. It’s been an adjustment, but in making it the former first-round pick has shown the kind of versatility he brings to the table.
“I have a few roles here in Arizona,” Jones said. “Whatever the defensive coordinator tells me to do, or whatever B.A. tells me to do, I’m going to do it.”
Jones said he will help the team as much and in any way he can, though he understands he was brought in to get after the quarterback.
Over his first four seasons, along with the sacks, Jones has tallied 217 total tackles, one interception, 10 forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Arians said thus far he has not seen anything out of the linebacker that has surprised him, because they had already seen his diverse skill set on tape. What has impressed him is how well the former Patriot has fit into his new locker room. According to the coach, that is “the biggest thing.”
Jones said the process was made easier because his new teammates gave him a warm welcome when the trade was made, which allowed the transition to be great.
“Carson Palmer called me, Larry Fitzgerald, he texted me; Honey Badger, Tyrann (Mathieu), he called me, all those guys were, ‘hey, welcome to the team,'” he said. “It was just a great feeling for those guys to all reach out to me at once and welcome me to the team.”
That happened before Jones arrived, and while it did not surprise him, he said it felt good for the team’s star players to reach out.
Maybe it was a byproduct of a veteran locker room filled with good people. Or, perhaps the gesture had to do with the fact that Jones could be the missing piece to a Super Bowl puzzle.
At any rate, now that Jones is here, expectations are high for him to produce, and to have his regular season debut come against the very team that traded him only adds to the intrigue, if not the intensity.
Arians said he has not seen much of a difference in Jones this week that would indicate this game means more to him, noting he comes to work every day so it’s difficult to make that claim, and Jones himself said he is not particularly amped up.
“A lot of people say this is a big game for me, but I’m approaching it like another game,” he said. “It’s very fortunate I get to play against my old teammates, and like I said, I’m excited to go out there and compete against them.”
However, one of his teammates — Calais Campbell — said he has seen a little more from Jones this week.
“Yeah, you can tell in the way he’s practicing it means a lot to him,” he said. “He always practices hard, but he has a different pep in his step, and I understand why. He’s such a good player and a guy that we’ve grown to really respect really quickly, so I definitely want to make sure we play our best ball for him.”
Informed that Jones said he’s treating this like every other game, Campbell said while Jones is probably trying to do that, it’s only natural to feel differently about one like this.
Of course, maybe what Campbell sees as motivation for this game is really just the difference between preseason Jones and regular season Jones?
As Campbell said, human nature would dictate that yes, Jones wants to play well against and beat the Patriots a little more badly than he would any other opponent.
Campbell said Jones has not been giving any kind of speeches or anything, but one thing the linebacker can provide is a little insight into the Patriots. He did, after all, play four seasons for the team, and has a better idea than some about things they like to do.
“Yeah, from the things I can remember, definitely,” Jones said of sharing information. “That’s another part of the perks of me being here, for sure.”