BY: ED COLE
TEMPE, Ariz. – Pressure? What’s that? If you ask Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones, he’s not too familiar with that word.
“I don’t believe in the word pressure at all,” Jones said. “You can call it pressure, but it’s a job. Every player has a job to do. He (Cardinals general manager Steve Keim) brought me here to rush the passer, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m excited to get after these quarterbacks. It should be fun to watch.”
Keim and Jones have some history that goes back past the three days that it took to make the deal happen with the New England Patriots, that saw Arizona send guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to New England in exchange for the pass rusher they desperately needed in Jones.
“This has been a process since the start of the league year, where you get into a situation where you’re active in making different calls, and once we got in touch with the (New England) Patriots and knew that this was a possibility, we spent a lot of time on Chandler (Jones), watching him on tape,” Keim said. “He and I actually have a very close mutual friend. My college strength coach was his college strength coach. So, I’ve known a lot about him for a long time, and my coach, who I trust greatly, is very high on him, and they’re still very close to this day. So, we had some intel, and again, I’ve followed his career. It’s hard not to like a guy with his ability.”
“So many times in this business, as I’ve said before, it’s extremely difficult to find pass rushers, particularly 26-year old Pro Bowl pass rushers with tremendous length and athleticism,” Keim said, “A guy that through the process, we felt like not only was a great schematical fit but a great fit in our locker room as well.”
For the past four years in New England, Jones put his hand in the dirt, and rushed quarterbacks as a defensive end. He dabbed a bit in his second season as a linebacker, but primarily, he came off the edge as a DE.
With someone in-house like Jones, who’s young, and someone who can do whatever’s needed to wreak havoc on quarterbacks, it’s a true pleasure knowing that he can do so many things for you, like Keim envisions him doing this season for the Cardinals.
“The things that he (Jones) did on tape in New England that excited you, is not only his ability to rush the passer, but his ability to be flexible from a positional standpoint,” Keim said. “I’ve seen him play a 3, I’ve seen him play a 5, I’ve seen him bounce outside to a 7 and rush the passer. I’ve seen him cover in the slot. So his length, his athleticism, his ability to change direction and all those things that he has is going to give us a lot of flexibility from a scheme standpoint. But, again, with his pass rush ability, I think most of us would agree that you want to see him rushing up field.”
Despite their issues with DeflateGate, that seem to be never-ending, the Patriots are the clear class of the 32 NFL organizations. They’ve won multiple championships, they have two absolute Hall of Famers in head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, and they just have it.
Other than his new team, the only other team Jones has ever known at the professional level has been the Patriots. He learned quite a bit in the 55 games he played in New England that he’s hoping to bring to Arizona.
“I learned a lot,” Jones said. “I learned a lot in New England, as far as on the field and off the field. Ultimately, becoming a man and becoming a professional. When Mr. Keim called me and he told me that he wanted me to be on the team, he also told me that I could bring some leadership as well to this team and maybe I can share some of the things that I learned over at New England and kind of let it spread throughout the team. I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to get out there with the guys and gel with those guys for sure.”
Jones was definitely busy last season in guiding New England to a 12-4 record and an appearance in the AFC Championship Game, but he wasn’t too busy that he couldn’t take a glance at the Arizona Cardinals, which peaked his interest as the season wore on.
“Yeah, for sure,” Jones said. “I watch a lot of TV, I watch a lot of ESPN, I watch a lot of sports. The Cardinals are always on, always winning. Unfortunately, I say ‘we’ because I’m on the team now, we always fell short. Like the Patriots did, they fell short. So, hopefully I can bring some pass rush. I hear a lot about the fans and how loud it gets here. I’m excited to maybe get a few snaps, jumping off the ball, and get some sacks and hopefully can help the team.”