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Chandler Jones Has Eyes Set On NFL Sack Record

All-Pro linebacker feels he has "mastered the art of pass rush"

Linebacker Chandler Jones peeks out from above his mask during a recent walkthrough.
Linebacker Chandler Jones peeks out from above his mask during a recent walkthrough.

Chandler Jones has usually kept his motivations vague season to season, choosing only to say he'd like to get better from the previous year.

Coming off his personal best season of 19 sacks, though, perhaps there is reason to get more specific. Perhaps there's a reason for him to acknowledge the NFL sack record – 22½ by Michael Strahan – is a target for which to reach.

"I feel like I'm getting closer and closer," the 30-year-old Jones said during a virtual interview session Thursday. "I don't feel older. I had a pretty decent year last year, and I feel even better with this time off, my body got some time to rest. Why not? Why can't I break the record?"

The record is "a personal goal of mine," Jones added, noting that improvements of defensive personnel – and even offensive advances – put him in a better position than before to improve on his sack total.

Devon Kennard will be the other outside linebacker, and Jones said he has already had discussions with his new teammate where both are willing to swap sides whenever necessary. New defensive lineman Jordan Phillips can be a force up the middle, Jones said, which would certainly aid anyone pushing from the edge. And if the Kyler Murray-led offense can score like is hoped, it'll put opponents into positions to have to throw more often -- which funnels right into Jones' strong suit.

Jones' talent itself, however, is the main reason he's had the success he's had, and why even talking about a 23-sack season sounds plausible.

"Where I am right now in my career, I definitely feel I have mastered the art of pass rush," Jones said. "Half of the battle is just having confidence, knowing no one can block you. You can say it out loud or say it to yourself. Each and every week, I feel no one in the NFL can block me."

Jones needs seven sacks this season to become the franchise's all-time sack leader, trailing only Freddie Jon Nunn's 66½. The 60 Jones has piled up in just 64 games as a Cardinal is astonishing; it took Nunn 131 games to get his number.

After a year in which Jones seemed to be chasing any kind of respect, 19 sacks tilted the conversation. NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks called Jones one of the top five players in the NFL, and NFL Network's Brian Baldinger called Jones the best pass rusher in the NFL.

"He is very unorthodox in a lot of things that he does, but he gets to the quarterback," Baldinger said in an NFLN segment earlier this offseason. "That's what this game is largely about. I'll take Chandler Jones off his body of work, because I think he's got a lot of great football left in him."

Jones finally got his due in the annual Top 100 list, voted on by players, climbing to No. 15 this year after being left off in 2019. And while he called 15 "a pretty good number," he also acknowledged he thought he should have been higher on the list.

Jones said he feels as good as he ever has (although he admitted that even after working out in the offseason, in the first day of strength and conditioning with coach Buddy Morris "I got my butt handed to me.")

Jones signed a contract extension with the Cardinals in 2017 and has proven to be worth every cent. At some point his future will come into the conversation – after pass rushers like the Browns' Myles Garrett and the Chargers' Nick Bosa got gigantic new deals – but Jones deftly defers on that topic for now.

There are records to chase first.

"(The contract) is a bridge we are going to have to cross when it happens," Jones said. "I still have two years left on my contract, I'm happy here, I love it here. Those numbers are definitely jaw-dropping. Those are definitely some nice numbers to see. But we have some time to get there."

Images of new Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and the other Cardinals during Tuesday's walkthrough, presented by Hyundai.