With a shift in defense, linebackers Chandler Jones and Markus Golden will be moving from linebacker to defensive end.
ORLANDO, Fla. – Steve Wilks has made it clear multiple times the Cardinals will be able to move around into different defensive looks, depending on the situation.
But the new head coach, who ran a 4-3 alignment as defensive coordinator in Carolina, is ready to move the Cardinals in that direction and use Chandler Jones and Markus Golden as defensive ends instead of the outside linebacker roles they previously played.
"When you look at the transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3, a lot of what (the Cardinals) did last year, 70 to 75 percent of what they did was an over front, which is a 4-3," Wilks said Tuesday at the J.W. Marriott during the NFL league meetings. "When you take Jones, when you take Golden and you start talking about doing what they do best --- going forward -- I am very excited about seeing those guys play."
Both Jones and Golden have said they have no problem with a move. Jones played defensive end his first four years in the NFL with
New England. Golden was a defensive end in college.
Jones set a franchise record with 17 sacks last season. Golden led the team with 12½ sacks in 2016, but he didn't have any last season before tearing his ACL in the fourth game of the season.
There will be some issues to consider. Jones trimmed from 275 pounds to between 255 and 260 last season and praised its effects in his record-breaking season, and he would presumably continue playing at that weight. One of the reasons Golden made sense as an outside linebacker were concerns NFL types had of his size as a defensive end.
Never short on confidence, Golden has said he would have no issue playing defensive end, that he just wants to get on the field. Wilks shares that belief, comparing the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Golden to an undersized defensive end Wilks coached in Carolina, 6-3, 251-pound Mario Addison.
Addison has had 20½ sacks the past two seasons.
"(Addison) was a little undersized but could hold the point of attack there, a 6-technique and a phenomenal guy coming off the edge," Wilks said. "Everything I've heard about Markus, about his tempo, he loves to compete, he's a 100 miles an hour in
practice. Those are the kind of guys I gravitate toward. They have the DNA I am looking for."
The front seven will be Wilks' key on defense. He called it "unfair" to make any comparisons between his former linebacking corps in Carolina – led by Luke Kuechly – and the Cards' current group of Haason Reddick, Deone Bucannon and Josh Bynes, but emphasized he liked his current players' potential.
Wilks also said he and General Manager Steve Keim have discussed the defensive line as recently as this week here in Orlando, about additions they could still make. Those are also important, even while the team searches for a No. 2 cornerback across from Patrick Peterson.
"You can have Patrick Peterson, you can get another guy over at No. 2 who is solid, but if you don't have anyone getting after the quarterback, it really doesn't matter," Wilks said.
The Cardinals do have some proven players who can come off the edge, however. Jones and Golden just may be doing it from a three-point stance more often.
"You go back to when they were in college, they had their hand in the dirt," Wilks said. "You go back to when Chandler was in New England, he had his hand in the dirt. So I think it will be an easy transition."
Images of the players who registered sacks in 2017