Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones (55) celebrates on of his two sacks last weekend against Jacksonville.
When Chandler Jones first arrived in a trade with the Cardinals, they asked him what his playing weight was, and figuring no one knew from his days in New England, he simply told them his weight at the time.
He ended up playing heavy. Jones showed up to training camp at 280 pounds in 2016, playing the season around 270 or 275 pounds. This year, the outside linebacker made the effort to cut some weight – arriving in camp at 265, playing all season between 255 and 260 pounds – and it has made a difference.
"Later in the game, in the fourth quarter, not to toot my own horn, I've been factor a lot," Jones said
Thursday. "Last year, I was kind of, I wouldn't say invisible or disappear, but I wouldn't be as active."
Jones has certainly been active this year.
Coming off arguably his best game of the season – two sacks, five tackles for loss – Jones has piled up 12 sacks in 11 games, tied for the NFL lead, along with a league-leading 20 tackles for loss.
"He's playing at, not a Pro-Bowl level, not an all-pro level, but a defensive Player of the Year level," defensive coordinator James Bettcher said.
Jones won't go there. "I just try to stay in my lane," he said, insisting that if he plays well, it'll help the Cardinals toward a title, which is the honor he really covets.
As for the idea he's raised his level of play this season – after signing a five-year, $80-plus million extension in the offseason – Jones will leave that to others.
"I'm not sure how I am on the Richter scale, if I am going low or going high, but every week, I'm just trying to be consistent," Jones said. "If it looks like I am taking my game up, then yeah, for sure."
Bettcher said Jones has been excellent since he showed up in 2016, but the coach also raved about Jones' play against the run and his finishes in the pass rush, with closing speed and stride that echo some of the other greats Bettcher has coached, like Dwight Freeney, John Abraham and Robert Mathis.
"If there was a stat for disruptions, he'd be leading the league in that stat too," Bettcher said.
ADRIAN PETERSON SITS AGAIN
Running back Adrian Peterson (neck) sat out practice Thursday for a second straight day, although offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin expressed optimism Peterson would be able to play Sunday.
Sitting out again were linebacker Deone Bucannon (ankle), wide receiver John Brown (toe), defensive lineman Corey Peters (ankle) and safety Rudy Ford (knee). Wide receiver Brittan Golden (groin), defensive lineman Josh Mauro (ankle), tight end Troy Niklas (back/knee) and running back Kerwynn Williams (ribs) were limited.
For the Rams, linebacker Mark Barron (not-injury related), linebacker Connor Barwin (forearm), tight end Tyler Higbee (illness), tackle Andre Whitworth (not injury related) and wide receiver Robert Woods (shoulder) all sat out. Center John Sullivan (not injury related), running back Malcolm Brown (knee) and cornerback Kayvon Webster (ankle) were limited.
PREPPING FOR THE RAMS AT THE LINE
One story this week around Sunday's opponent the Rams is the idea that the Los Angeles offense often hustles to the line of scrimmage right away so that the Rams can get an early look at the defense. Because the coach-to-quarterback communication doesn't shut off until 15 seconds remain on the playclock, that would allow head coach/playcaller Sean McVay to sometimes make his own audibles directly to quarterback Jared Goff.
"I think that happens with teams a little more than people talk about," Bettcher said.
Bettcher said the Cardinals must do a great job disguising their defensive looks. The Rams will try and use some early motions to unveil the defensive call, but that's how most offenses operate.
"End of the day, it's about execution and lining up across from a man and beating a man you're lined up across from," Bettcher said. "That's football."
BERCOVICI LET GO FROM PRACTICE SQUAD
With Drew Stanton healthier and Matt Barkley on the active roster as a third quarterback, the Cardinals released practice squad quarterback Mike Bercovici Thursday.
It was one of a handful of practice-squad moves. The team also cut tackle Storm Norton and put tight end Anthony Denham – who hurt his knee in practice Wednesday – on practice-squad injured reserve. To fill those spots, the Cardinals brought back tackle Vinston Painter and safety Harlan Miller – both of whom were released earlier this week from the roster – to the practice squad. They also signed tight end Gabe Holmes.
Images from past matchups between the Cardinals and this week's opponent, the Los Angeles Rams