Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones drags down Titans running back Derrick Henry for a loss last weekend.
With 14 sacks, Chandler Jones is closing in on the Cardinals' franchise record for sacks in a season, which is the 16½ Simeon Rice piled up in 1997.
But it is Jones' run defense that should draw equal attention, and the NFL-leading 24 tackles for loss the linebacker also has this season.
"Every pass rusher in the NFL doesn't want to be labeled just a pass rusher," Jones said.
Some of Jones' tackles for loss come from his sacks but not all (the definition of a TFL is just what it sounds like – taking a player to the ground behind the line of scrimmage. A sack by running a QB out of
bounds or a sack from the stripping of a QB does not count.) There have been plenty of plays like the one Jones opened with Sunday, swallowing up Titans running back Derrick Henry for a two-yard loss on the first play of the game.
Jones believes his run defense has trended upward because of his film study, which gives him important hints on many plays before the ball is even snapped. Still, teams keep trying him on the ground.
"You would think that wouldn't be the case but people have run at him," defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. "People have tried to get the edge on him. I think he has put to rest any inclination he isn't a physical player on the edge. … I love how he's played against the run."
Bettcher reiterated he thinks Jones is an NFL defensive player of the year candidate not just because of his sacks or TFLs but for the intangible things Jones does that impact the game.
"His tape speaks for itself," Bettcher said.
But the stats do matter. Jones lamented after Sunday's game about the handful of sacks he should have had this season and just missed – it was Jones' pressure that led to sacks from Olsen Pierre and Haason Reddick Sunday – and he acknowledged setting the team mark would be important to him "for sure."
"I've already reached my personal (best)," Jones said. "The more I can add to that, ultimately by helping the team, that's good."
GOODWIN SEES "GREAT CHALLENGE" FOR HOLDEN
Putting Evan Boehm back into the lineup at right guard this week for the injured Earl Watford isn't much
of a stress for offensive line coach Harold Goodwin, since Boehm started there at the beginning of the season.
It's a little different for untested rookie fifth-round left tackle Will Holden, who takes over for the injured Jared Veldheer.
"It's obviously not a situation, as an offensive line coach, you want to put a rookie in, especially on the road," Goodwin said of Holden's upcoming start in Washington Sunday. "Maybe a home game you get by with it, but the crowd noise and the pass rushers they have on the edge, it'll be a great challenge for him. Hopefully, he rises up."
BAKER, BETHEA BACK AT PRACTICE
As coach Bruce Arians had said, both safety Budda Baker (thigh) and safety Antoine Bethea (knee) returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis. In fact, many of the DNPs from Wednesday were back at work. The only players who did not practice for the Cardinals were running back Adrian Peterson (neck), guard Earl Watford (ankle), tight end Jermaine Gresham (illness) and linebacker Gabe Martin (hamstring).
Joining Baker and Bethea as limited were defensive lineman Josh Mauro (ankle), guard Alex Boone (back/illness), wide receiver John Brown (toe) and defensive lineman Corey Peters (ankle).
For the Redskins, linebacker Zach Brown (toe/Achilles/hip), safety Montae Nicholson (concussion) and tackle Trent Williams (knee) did not practice. Limited were tackle Morgan Moses (ankle), cornerback Josh Norman (knee), linebacker Ryan Anderson (ankle), wide receiver Ryan Grant (ankle), wide receiver Maurice Harris (concussion), defensive lineman Terrell McClain (toe) and center Chase Roullier (hand).
Images from past matchups between the Cardinals and this week's opponent, Washington