Fri Aug 14 5:57pm ET
By DAVID BRANDT
AP Sports Writer
From left to right, Arizona Cardinals' Duke Thomas, Charles Washington, Chandler Jones, Haason Reddick and Isaiah Simmons run sprints during an NFL football workout inside State Farm Stadium Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Arizona Cardinals' Chandler Jones (55) and Jordan Phillips (97) run drills during an NFL football workout Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Arizona Cardinals' Chandler Jones runs a pass-rushing drill during an NFL football workout Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Arizona's Chandler Jones was a great player on a mediocre defense one season ago, finishing with a career-high 19 sacks and solidifying his reputation as one of the NFL's premier pass rushers.
Now that the Cardinals linebacker has a little help, he's got Michael Strahan's single-season record of 22 1/2 sacks in his sights.
''If there's a year to do it, this could be the year to do it,'' Jones said. ''That's a personal goal of mine. We have more help on our team, we have a better team. You see it on paper, but it's right there for you.''
Jones' optimism is understandable. The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder should still be in the prime of his career at 30 years old and he's had at least 11 sacks in each of the past five seasons. More importantly, the Cardinals were aggressive in the free agent market, adding multiple veterans in an effort to help a defense that gave up the most total yards in the NFL in 2019.
They signed linebackers Devon Kennard and De'Vondre Campbell, along with defensive lineman Jordan Phillips. Three-time All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson should be available for a full season after missing six games last season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
The Cardinals also used the No. 8 overall pick to draft linebacker Isaiah Simmons, who was widely considered the draft's most versatile defender.
The addition of Kennard is particularly intriguing, especially as it relates to Jones' pass-rushing production. The 29-year-old Phoenix native had seven sacks in each of the past two seasons for the Detroit Lions.
''Having two outside backers in this system is always key,'' Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. ''Having both guys apply pressure as rushers and forcing the offense to pick their protections on who is going to block those guys. ... Hopefully we can get Chandler more one-on-ones.''
Kennard said he's always had respect for Jones' ability and it's been even more impressive to watch him up close. Both players have the ability to play on the left or right side of the field and have said they'll do whatever is best for the team.
''I really respect a superstar of his caliber having the work ethic that he does and the attitude toward work that he brings every day,'' Kennard said. ''The positive energy and all those things.''
Jones' stellar four seasons in the desert have gone largely unnoticed because the Cardinals haven't been very good, missing the playoffs every year. But the ninth-year pro has been one of the league's most consistent big-play threats with 60 sacks in 64 games. He also has a nose for the football with an NFL-high eight forced fumbles in 2019 and three fumble recoveries.
''I feel like I've definitely mastered the art of the pass rush for sure,'' Jones said. ''Half of the battle is just having confidence. Knowing that no one can block you.''
Now Jones doesn't just have confidence in himself, but also the people around him. He said one of his biggest challenges has been building team chemistry in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced almost all team activity online until the past few weeks.
Instead of banter around the locker room, the talks moved to online chats before and during Call of Duty games.
''I'm sitting here at 30 now, with a daughter, so I don't really have time for video games,'' Jones said. ''But when I do, I'm always trying to join my teammates cause we're not in the locker room. I don't have that time to sit there and pick people's brains and build that camaraderie.''
Now that the talks have moved from video games to the field at State Farm Stadium, the Cardinals' defensive promise is coming into focus. After struggling through a big chunk of last season, Joseph looks forward to helping this new group reach its potential.
''We have some ideas,'' Joseph said with a slight grin. ''I can't share those, but we have some ideas to use our best players in the right positions. It's always good to have great players.''
Five Sleepers: Week 3
Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker is clearly still not 100 percent healthy, but did play during the Thursday night win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He caught all five of his targets for 69 yards in Week 3. He'll get 10 days to heal up before his matchup with the Seattle Seahawks next week. Seattle has been horrendous at stopping the pass attack this season. Parker should be a reliable WR2 for that one, assuming he's healthy.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews will look to get back on track in Week 3 against the Chiefs. After a strong start to the 2020 campaign, the 25-year-old caught only one pass against the Houston Texans on Sunday. While that performance certainly left a bad taste in the mouths of fantasy managers, Andrews should remain starting in all formats, especially since his ceiling is higher than most at his position.
Miami Dolphins running back Jordan Howard has been having trouble finding any room to run this season. He rushed three times for one yard and one touchdown in the Thursday night win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Howard has 16 carries for 12 yards on the season, but has three touchdowns as well. Myles Gaskin has become the clear lead back in Miami, so there is little reason to keep Howard rostered in 12-team leagues. He does have a three game touchdown streak, but that won't be enough value to warrant ownership in most leagues.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown will face his most formidable task of the season against the Chiefs in Week 3. Hollywood has compiled at least five catches in each of his first two games to go along with 143 yards. While Brown hasn't found the end zone yet during the 2020 campaign, he is always in line for a productive outing, especially with so many weapons on the offensive side of the ball opening things up for him. Fantasy managers should keep him starting for the Monday night showdown with Kansas City.
Miami Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin saw a heavy workload during the Thursday night victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Gaskin rushed 22 times for 66 yards and caught five passes for 29 yards through the air. He has become the clear lead back in Miami, but Jordan Howard and Matt Breida will still get a few touches each game. Gaskin is quickly picking up steam in PPR formats. He'll get another favorable matchup against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4.
Miami Dolphins running back Matt Breida has been having issues finding any momentum through the first three weeks of the 2020 NFL season. He rushed three times for four yards during the Thursday night victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Breida has been horrendous this season and is a cut-candidate in most formats. Myles Gaskin has become the clear lead back in Miami. Breida will still get a few carries each week, but it won't be enough to have value in most formats.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick put together another solid performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3. He completed 18 of 20 passing attempts for 160 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed seven times for 38 yards on the ground with a rushing touchdown as well. The Jaguars had no answers for Fitzpatrick through the first half, but were able to slow him down after halftime. He'll get another solid matchup against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4. Seattle is struggling to slow down the passing game, so Fitzpatrick could be a possible streaming option again.
The New Orleans Saints Defense faces a tough test against the Packers, the league's highest-scoring team heading into Week 3. New Orleans has racked up some good stats so far, including six sacks, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a defensive touchdown. Unfortunately, Green Bay hasn't been giving to defenses this year, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been sacked just once and has yet to throw an interception. When you consider that this game could become high-scoring, it makes the New Orleans defense less appealing for fantasy purposes. There are better starting options out there.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook will square off with one of his former teams, the Packers, in Week 3. Cook ranks as the TE16 through two weeks of play and he was a bit disappointing in the first Saints game without Michael Thomas (ankle). Still, he's arguably the best pass-catcher this offense has besides Alvin Kamara, which should make fantasy managers feel better about starting him. Green Bay has been good against tight ends this year, though they haven't faced one who can stretch the field like Cook can. Plug him into lineups as a low-end TE1.
New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz gets a tough matchup against the Packers in Week 3. Lutz has made all three field-goals and all seven extra-points in two contests. New Orleans will have to put up more points in this one, considering that Green Bay currently leads the NFL in points per game. Fantasy managers should keep rolling with Lutz, as this contest could become high-scoring, lending to more opportunities for the veteran kicker. A top-12 finish at the position is certainly possible.
Washington Football Team defense will be in play again in Week 3 in a matchup with the Cleveland Browns. Washington has a high-floor as a defense thanks to a ferocious defensive line that features Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat, and second-overall pick Chase Young. Washington put up eight sacks in Week 1 and should be able to put pressure on Baker Mayfield this week. Their secondary is certainly capable of getting picked apart so their upside is limited, but they are a fine starting option in this matchup.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders faces off with the Packers in Week 3. Sanders saw the second-highest number of snaps in Week 2 against the Raiders, but was third in wide receiver targets behind Tre'Quan Smith and Deonte Harris. This makes the veteran wideout hard to trust against Green Bay, despite the fact that they rank 22nd in fantasy points allowed to opposing wideouts. While both Sanders and Smith are obviously risky, Sanders is even more volatile right now considering he saw so few targets in Week 2. Sanders is in the WR4 range for Week 3.
Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson led the team in carries in Week 2 and should continue his ascent up the fantasy football ranks in a good matchup in Cleveland. Gibson handled 13 carries in Week 2 and started over veteran Peyton Barber and pass-catching specialist J.D. McKissic. Gibson only has three receptions thus far in 2020 but should get more involved in the passing game as he gets more comfortable with the NFL game. Start the rookie as a high-upside RB2.
Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin has a tough matchup versus former Ohio State teammate Denzel Ward, but is still a WR1 for a matchup in Cleveland. McLaurin typically sees the opposing team's top corner, but the sophomore receiver has beaten good cornerbacks before as he went for 125 yards and a touchdown versus Patrick Peterson in Week 1. Washington has struggled on offense but they tend to force-feed McLaurin targets making him solid starter for fantasy managers.
Washington Football Team tight end Logan Thomas made four catches in each game so far this season and is a streamable tight end in a good matchup with Cleveland. Thomas hasn't eclipsed 40 yards in a game yet this season so he is a touchdown-dependent option in fantasy, but he has been getting a good amount of targets in an offense that lacks playmakers. Cleveland has given up a touchdown to tight ends in two-straight weeks so Thomas has a chance to pay off as a streamer in Week 3.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith could be a sneaky play in Week 3 against the Packers. In the first game without Michael Thomas (ankle), Smith played 53 snaps, compared to Emmanuel Sanders' 47, and caught five passes for 86 yards. He out-targeted Sanders seven to three. You can't feel entirely great about playing Smith, especially against a solid Packers' pass defense. Still, he has had a knack for finding the end zone in his career and saw the most targets of any pass-catcher not named Alvin Kamara. Smith is a sneaky play in all formats.
Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins has played efficiently in 2020, but is not a quarterback to target in fantasy. Haskins is quickly earning the dreaded "game manager" tag as he has thrown for under 225 yards and exactly one touchdown, but no interceptions, through the team's first two games. The Browns are a solid matchup and Haskins could play well again, but fantasy managers should aim higher with their QB. In 2QB leagues Haskins can be considered a low-end starter, but he should be left on waivers in most leagues.
New York Giants tight end Evan Engram has struggled thus far in 2020 and things won't get easier in Week 3 versus San Francisco. The 49ers won't be at full strength on defense after several injuries in Week 2, but they have still allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends through two weeks. Engram has just eight catches for 74 scoreless yards this season as New York has struggled on the offensive side of the ball. Engram isn't the slam-dunk fantasy starter he was after the draft but remains a low-end TE1 for this matchup at a weak tight end position for fantasy.
New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton had a letdown game in Week 2 with just 33 yards after he exploded for 100-plus yards and a touchdown in Week 1. Slayton should be in a position to see more targets this week as Sterling Shepard (toe) was placed on Injured Reserve. New York has struggled to move the ball on offense but will catch a break this week facing a 49ers Defense decimated by injuries. Slayton should be in line for seven-plus targets giving him appeal as a WR3 in fantasy.
New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray gets a favorable matchup against the Packers in Week 3. Green Bay has surrendered the 11th-most fantasy points to opposing running backs and has allowed a back to score in each of their two games so far. Murray saw far less touches in Week 2, though it can't be forgotten that he carried the ball 15 times in Week 1, against a much tougher Buccaneers' run defense. With Michael Thomas (ankle) ruled out, it's possible New Orleans opts for a run-heavy approach. If the veteran halfback sees at least 10 touches, he could do enough to return flex value in Week 3. The risk is the week-to-week uncertainty with his role and the fact that Kamara could gobble up all the backfield touches once again.