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An Absence Of Hype: Chandler Jones Won't Talk Himself Up

Despite NFL-leading 17 sacks, defensive end doesn't get much of spotlight

Defensive end Chandler Jones (55) has a laugh with safety Budda Baker during the Cardinals' final preseason game.
Defensive end Chandler Jones (55) has a laugh with safety Budda Baker during the Cardinals' final preseason game.

Any boasting from Chandler Jones isn't really, well, boasting.

When the defensive end accidentally broke a blocking sled in training camp and later insisted, "I'm too powerful," he did it with a smile and a wink. The times when he stares down left tackle D.J. Humphries in practice and tells Humphries, "I don't even need gloves today, I'm about to whoop you," Jones can't keep the straight face before smiling and telling Humphries he's kidding.

He's not going to change now, even if he is coming off a season in which he led the NFL in sacks and deserved to be in the conversation for defensive Player of the Year. Even if he does seem to be an afterthought when people talk about dominant defensive players, as Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack get the accolades (along with giant contracts.) He has no interest in serving as his own hype man.

"That's not me at all," Jones said. "I'm not that kind of guy. I wasn't raised like that. I frown upon it when I see it. That's not what I stand for. But I see it. I would never come out and say, 'Oh, I'm the best defensive end. No one can block me, I led the NFL in sacks.' I'm not that person."

Jones deflects conversations about his statistical goals, repeatedly saying he'd only like to improve from the season before. That will be difficult after his team-record 17 sacks in 2017, a year in which he also proved very good against the run.

He's in a slightly new position, moving to end in the new 4-3 alignment rather than the 3-4 base former coordinator James Bettcher employed. Jones played 4-3 defensive end when he was in New England, and from the start he shrugged away any transition concerns.

For as much as Jones might like to be a little less known and perhaps someone less of a focus of an opposing offense's gameplan, such perspective is relative. "I mean, I'm pretty sure they know I'll be coming this year," he acknowledged.

"But I like being under the radar," he added. "I'm not here for the hype, the glory, the rankings. I'm here for wins."

Besides, Jones, who is going into his third year with the Cardinals, has others who will take up his case.

In a league where the top quarterbacks or receivers are often judged through the prism of numbers, Humphries doesn't understand why that wouldn't translate to pass rushers.

"Those dudes are those dudes – Khalil, Von (Miller) – and they deserve what they are getting," Humphries said. "But if you are going to bat an eyelash and say Chandler doesn't, and then we go to the paper and we see the numbers, that just doesn't make sense to me. I don't like it at all. It makes me so upset when I see media and everyone talking about Von and Khalil, and rightfully so, those guys are the real deal, but you're going to act like that dude is not?"

Mack's situation jumped to the forefront during his holdout and subsequent trade to the Bears. Over the past three seasons, Jones actually has more sacks (39 ½ to 36 ½) and more tackles for loss (55 to 54) than Mack.

Both ended up getting big contract extensions. Jones signed his five-year, $82.5 million deal before the 2017 season, then went out to have the best season of his career. As for Mack, he reportedly received a deal with a $34 million signing bonus on a six-year deal, worth up to $141 million from his new team.

"That's crazy," Jones said. "That's a lot of money. A lot of money."

As for any surprise Mack was dealt, Jones shook his head. "I mean, I got traded, so …

"It's a business. Surprise wouldn't be the word."

Defensive coordinator Al Holcomb didn't know Jones before he got to Arizona in January, although he admired his play. Now Holcomb sees the work ethic up close.

"Getting to know the man and the kind of person he is, you can definitely see why he excels when he is on the field," Holcomb said.

Jones has gotten comfortable in Arizona, after spending his first four seasons in New England. It's easy for him to wear a smile, to mug for social media, to keep things light with teammates. He is serious on the field, but he'll think of good ways to celebrate a sack.

The actual hype about his play? "If it becomes a big enough of a deal, (people that matter to me) know," Jones said.

"He has fun playing football and he does it at a high level," Humphries said. "I just don't think he gets the respect he deserves. I don't think it's fair. That dude is a GOAT for real."

Images of past matchups between the Cardinals and Sunday's opponent, Washington

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