Cardinals' Jones has single-season sack record in sights

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.''

Player Notes
Saquon Barkley Sep 21 8:50am ET

Free-agent running back Devonta Freeman will work out for the New York Giants on Tuesday of this week, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The Giants fear they lost starting running back Saquon Barkley to a season-ending ACL tear during Week 2's loss to the Chicago Bears. Freeman's name has been linked to a few teams since the offseason, most recently the Philadelphia Eagles. The former Atlanta Falcons All-Pro could help to replace Barkley in New York if his workout this week goes well. Currently, the Giants have Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman as the next two men up in their running back room. Freeman is worth a waiver add this week, especially if he does come to terms with New York before waivers run in your league. Just don't go crazy with your FAB money as he could only have an early-down role running behind a poor offensive line in New York.

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Logan Thomas Sep 21 8:20am ET

Washington Football Team tight end Logan Thomas had a quiet afternoon with just 26 yards on four receptions in a loss to the Cardinals on Sunday. Despite the unflattering stat-line, Thomas was targeted nine times, second-most on the team. The Washington offense lacks true playmakers so Thomas has been heavily-involved in back-to-back weeks. His high target-floor make him a solid tight end to roster in fantasy and he can be considered a startable streamer in a solid Week 3 matchup with Cleveland.

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Devonta Freeman Sep 21 8:13am ET

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Terry McLaurin Sep 21 8:10am ET

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J.D. McKissic Sep 21 8:00am ET

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Courtland Sutton Sep 21 4:33am ET

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Fantasy Spin: Sutton missed the opener with a shoulder injury and showed a lot of intestinal fortitude playing in this one only to get derailed by cramping in the third quarter. It's been a rough start for the third-year pro, but he should be good to go next week assuming he doesn't experience some kind of setback with his shoulder between now and then. He should be considered a WR3 with WR2 upside in Week 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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De'Vondre Campbell Sep 21 4:03am ET

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Melvin Gordon Sep 21 3:53am ET

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Fantasy Spin: Gordon was featured with Philip Lindsay (toe) sidelined and found much more success early on than Saquon Barkley did against this same defense in Week 1. The Broncos figure to continue riding Gordon hard for however long Lindsay needs to recover, but his path to fantasy success is unlikely to get much easier in Week 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Consider Gordon a low-end RB2 at best in that matchup.

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Christian Kirk Sep 21 3:53am ET

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Fantasy Spin: Through two weeks, Kirk has been an afterthought offensively, catching just three passes combined. It's too soon to cut bait on a talented receiver in a high-upside offense, but he's better left on the bench for the time being.

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Jordan Hicks Sep 21 3:53am ET

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Larry Fitzgerald Sep 21 3:43am ET

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Fantasy Spin: The one-time fantasy stud's best days are well in the past now, but Fitzgerald can still generate flex value in point-per-reception leagues.

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James Conner Sep 21 3:33am ET

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Fantasy Spin: Conner did the bulk of his damage on a 59-yard carry late in the game as Denver was selling out to stop Pittsburgh from trying to chew clock. But one thing was clear before that: Conner is still the man in this backfield, logging 13 more carries than Benny Snell. Conner's durability - he left early in Week 1 with an ankle sprain - has been his biggest bugaboo for a while now, and it might be the only thing that keeps him from having a field day in Week 3 against the Houston Texans' weak run defense.

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Kenyan Drake Sep 21 3:33am ET

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DeAndre Hopkins Sep 21 3:33am ET

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Fantasy Spin: It was a step back statistically after a huge Week 1 performance, but Hopkins' first TD in a Cardinals uniform helped offset some of that. He's a must-start WR1 that could be in for a big week against a shaky Lions secondary.

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Jeff Driskel Sep 21 3:23am ET

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Fantasy Spin: Driskel has turned himself into a capable backup NFL quarterback and flashed at times when called upon, and it's no small feat to do what he did in this game against such a quality defense. Given that Lock was seen in a sling after his exit, it's likely Driskel will need to start multiple games for the Broncos. He should be a decent superflex option for however long he is needed, but he shouldn't be starting in most fantasy leagues in Week 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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Fantasy Spin: Roethlisberger threw an unforgivable interception early in the third quarter but was otherwise sharp, connecting on long strikes to rookie Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson. The Steelers' defense is so good that Roethlisberger may not need to carry the offense very often, but he possesses a solid fantasy floor with huge upside should the defense has an off-day or two along the way. Consider him a strong starting option in Week 3 against the vulnerable Houston Texans' defense.

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Fantasy Spin: Cooks' performance was one of the few bright spots for Houston in this one. His 38-yard catch in the second quarter helped set up the Texans' lone TD. Will Fuller dealt with an undisclosed injury throughout this contest, which explains a bit why Cooks played such a prominent role. Regardless of whether Fuller can play next week or not, Cooks figures to be a weak flex option in a brutal matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Jamal Adams Sep 21 2:53am ET

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Tyrod Taylor Sep 21 2:53am ET

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Fantasy Spin: Despite what Lynn said, it sure feels like Taylor's days as QB1 is numbered. Taylor didn't look good in Week 1 against a Bengals defense that got rolled over by the Browns just a few days later, while Justin Herbert threw for 300-plus yards against the defending Super Bowl champions.

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