It’s that time of the year again, folks.
You know, the time of the year when Chandler Jones completely goes off in a game and reminds everybody just how cold he is at getting quarterbacks on the ground.
I love it because it gives me an excuse to write about him at least once every season. I hate that it’s necessary, though, to still have to be reminding some folks of just how good Jones is in friggin’ 2019. Like, how is everyone not recognizing the greatness? This guy can, and does, do it all when it comes to the art of pass rushing.
However, when the subject of the best pass rushers in the league comes up, how long does it take before people get to his name? That’s if his name even comes up. Hell, he wasn’t even included on several lists of the top 100 players in the NFL from last year.
As a reminder, we are talking about a guy who has found a way to notch double-digit sacks in all but two of his first seven seasons in the league. That includes the last four seasons in a row. It’s also important to remember that we are only two seasons removed from Jones leading the entire league in sacks with 17. But even after that big year, has anybody seriously thrown his name around for consideration when talking about prospective Defensive Player of the Year candidates?
Maybe this will put into perspective why excluding Jones in the top pass rusher discussions is so egregious. Since he was drafted in 2012, Jones has by far the most sacks of anyone who came into the league that year or later. According to Pro Football Reference, he is currently ranked 55th in NFL the history in career sacks with 85.5. The next-closest player who came into the league the same year as Jones?
Olivier Vernon, who is tied for 168th on the list with 52 career sacks.
Want to know another fun fact? Jones is also the last New England Patriots player to have double-digit sacks in a season, which he did in his final year with the team in 2015.
Not only was Jones a one-man wrecking crew, he also saved his best plays for when the Cardinals needed them most.
How Jones’ second sack swung momentum back in the Cardinals’ favor
Arizona jumped out to a 17-0 lead early on Sunday, but the Giants roared back. In less than two minutes, that lead was cut to three points with 9:52 left on the clock in the first half. The game was close for the rest of the day. But time and time again, Jones came up with big plays to help keep the Giants at bay.
However, I want to highlight Jones’ second sack of the afternoon because it was the most significant play he made all game. It happened in the middle of the third quarter when the Cardinals were still clinging to a 17-14 lead. Their defense was showing signs of faltering. In seven plays, the Giants had worked the ball all the way down from their own 32-yard line, to the Arizona 37-yard line. At that range, they looked to be in position to at least tie the game with a field goal if nothing else, while a touchdown would’ve given them their first lead of the game.
The Giants came out with Daniel Jones under center, a tight end and wide receiver to the offensive right side, and two wide receivers to the left. Saquon Barkley was lined up in the dot about seven yards deep directly behind quarterback.
The important thing to know about this play is that it was supposed to be a screen to Barkley. Daniel Jones’ job was to carry out a play-action fake to Barkley as if Barkley might be running a sprint draw.
I had to keep reminding myself that this was the plan, because it’s basically the only way to make sense of the Giants trying to single-block Chandler Jones with tight end Evan Engram. Engram is known as more of a pass catcher, but he is a willing blocker, too. The problem is even good offensive tackles catch hell trying to block Jones one-on-one, so asking Engram to do so was clearly unfair.
But the Giants weren’t expecting Engram to have to block the pass rusher for long. The trouble came when Barkley stepped up maybe one step too many, which allowed Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks to make contact with Barkley and keep him from being available to catch the screen pass. While Hicks was hemming up Barkley, Jones was busy absolutely rag-dolling Engram once he recognized it was a pass.
Daniel Jones, seeing that throwing the ball to Barkley might end in disaster, tried to go to his left to buy time for Barkley to break away from Hicks. On film, it looks like he was just about to give up and throw the ball at Barkley’s feet, but he never got the chance. Now that Chandler Jones had shed Engram’s block, he saw what was happening and completely laid out with both arms fully extended to get to the rookie quarterback and, specifically, to get at the ball.
It appears Jones’ left hand was the one that met the pigskin and knocked the football right out of Daniel Jones’ right hand before he could cock back to throw. The ball took a lucky bounce and landed right into Chandler Jones’ lap to complete the hat trick on the play.
Jones’ sack, forced fumble, and fumble recovery not only turned away a Giants drive that seemed destined to at least tie the game with a field goal, it also gave the Cardinals’ offense outstanding field position of their own. Three plays later and Arizona was in the end zone again to extend a lead it would not relinquish for the rest of the game.
In addition to that awesome play, I want to point out the influence Jones had on the outcome throughout that game. For instance, after his first of sack of the game in the middle of the first quarter, Daniel Jones threw a pick on the very next play.
The third of his four (!) sacks on the day also came on a play where the Giants were already at the Arizona 25-yard line late in the third quarter. The Giants, who were down 24-14 at the time, ended up missing a field goal two plays later. After his fourth and final sack of the game, the Giants turned the ball over on downs a few plays later.
It just doesn’t get much more impactful than that.
I don’t know what it will take for more people to start fully appreciating Chandler Jones’ dominance, but what I do know is whether anybody recognizes him or not, he just keeps right on balling every year. That dude has been remarkably consistent with his pass-rushing prowess and production since his arrival in the NFL eight years ago and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down a bit.
On Sunday, he showed everyone once again just how destructive he can be to an opponent’s game plan, and Arizona needed every single play of his to pull off that road win.
Oh, and don’t look now but Jones’ big day pushed him up to 8.5 sacks on the season. That’s just behind the current league leaders in the category, Myles Garrett and Shaquil Barrett, who have nine apiece. I should probably mention that he also has four forced fumbles and two passes defensed on the season as well.
Now, let’s see just how long it takes for Jones’ name to be included in upcoming Defensive Player of the Year discussions.