It’s probably safe to say at this point that Chandler Jones represents the best trade in franchise history.
At this point, because of the 49ers’ excellent record, it’s probably safe to say rookie Nick Bosa has gotten more attention this year than Jones. Bosa has had a good season, and the 49ers are 8-1 as they host the Cardinals Sunday.
Jones, though, is tied for the NFL lead with 11½ sacks in his 10 games, and leads the league with five forced fumbles. He often has been the lone bright spot on a defense that has struggled, and not surprisingly, those around him are endorsing him to at least be mentioned among Defensive Player of the Year candidates.
“If you’d talk to our opponents about the impact he’s had in games, not only getting the sacks but getting the ball on the ground, he’s got to be up there,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “It’s too bad our record isn’t up there, but his individual play has been phenomenal.”
No one in the NFL has as many sacks as Jones (52½ in 58 games) since he arrived in 2016 from the Patriots in exchange for guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick. He downplays often his lack of attention, although make no mistake – it’s not that he doesn’t notice. He’ll see a list of the top sack men in the league somewhere on TV, and the conversation usually drifts to someone behind him on the list.
“I’m not upset about it, but it’s funny that, ‘OK, we’ll look at the numbers, but we’re not going to say the name that’s first,’ ” Jones said. “We’re going to start with the names under. That’s where we’re going to start.’ ”
Then again, Jones notes, “they don’t pay me.”
“Oh, you don’t talk about me,” he added. “You’re upset that I’m at No. 1? That’s cool. As long as Mr. (Michael) Bidwill is saying good game, and Kliff is saying good game to me, alright, cool.”
Cornerback Patrick Peterson said Jones would be better known if media members broke down video rather than just watch the games on national TV – games the Cardinals simply do not play often. Success also makes a difference, which is nothing new.
“Sometimes you have to be on winning teams to get certain nods,” Peterson said. “If (Chandler) can just continue controlling what he can control, and play unbelievable football as he has been, he can have a great opportunity for that (DPOY) trophy.”
-- You could just cut-and-paste the paragraph I wrote in last week’s Friday Before about how the meshing of Kenyan Drake and David Johnson might look, although now you add in the spice of Johnson’s rough Tampa game and how that might impact things further. Drake was so good against the 49ers the first time – although Johnson or no, you know the Niners are gearing up to make sure Drake doesn’t embarrass them again.
-- We’ll see if Justin Murray is ready to play again at right tackle, but I would guess if he is, the Cards will try to plug him back in rather than leave Justin Pugh at right tackle.
-- Wednesday, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on a conference call with Arizona reporters that “we won’t have (tight end George) Kittle,” although later that night the team said Shanahan misspoke. Kittle is officially doubtful and I will be shocked if he plays. That can only help given that Kittle beat up the Cards in round one. Emmanuel Sanders trying to play with bad ribs after not practicing all week is also something to watch, because Sanders made it a tough night for Peterson. The Cardinals will try to shut the 49ers run game down again and see if Jimmy Garoppolo can repeat his good game.
-- The Cardinals have a handful of guys getting vets days off from practice. Even Jones – who never misses practice, including the voluntary offseason stuff – has taken some.
“We want to be proactive in that,” Kingsbury said. “Guys who have a certain number of years or a certain number of injuries, we just get ahead of it and have those conversations. A lot of those guys don’t want to do it because they are competitors and they think they need the work. We just want to be on the same page and kind of map them out prior to needing to do it.”
-- Andy Lee is making another case for the Pro Bowl, and I’m not even including his epic passing stats. Lee is leading the NFL with a 48.6-yard average, the same franchise record-setting number he had in 2018. Here’s what’s impressive: In that downpour game against the Giants, Lee averaged only 42.3 yards a kick on four punts. Otherwise, he’d be in even better shape.
-- Kyler Murray’s jersey from the Tampa game was sent to Canton to be displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame to represent his rookie record 211 straight passes without an interception. Kyler’s first entry to Canton. Not the last?
-- Sunday’s game is the stretch run (although the bye does come next Sunday). The Cards have six games left, four against the NFC West, two against the brawling Browns and Steelers. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cards finish up.
See you Sunday.