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Markus Golden Provides Perfect Fit For Cardinals' Pass Rush

Veteran linebacker returns to a team that is 7th in NFL in sacks

The Cardinals' pass rush will benefit from the addition of veteran Markus Golden.
The Cardinals' pass rush will benefit from the addition of veteran Markus Golden.

Losing Chandler Jones did not help the Cardinals' pass rush.

Being able to add Markus Golden with Jones out, however? The Cards might not have been able to find, given the circumstances, a better replacement.

"He fits perfectly," defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said.

Golden won't practice with his new team until next week, thanks to COVID protocols, but after Jones' season-ending injury – prompting ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky to write off the Cardinals as a potential contender – bringing in a familiar and proven reinforcement can only help coming out of the bye.

"Great guy, great player, great teammate, great attitude," said outside linebacker Haason Reddick, who leads the Cardinals with five sacks. " 'Junk' is relentless, he plays the game hard and he has a dog mentality. He wants to be one of the best. I'm happy to have him here and I know he can make an impact right away."

The Cardinals haven't done a bad job with the pass rush, even without Jones for two games and counting and even though Jones only had one sack when he did play. The Cards, with 19 sacks, are seventh in the NFL. According to, the Cardinals are fifth in the NFL with 72 quarterback pressures, and 13th in pressure percentage, at 23.5.

Golden only had 1½ sacks this season with the Giants, but only played 36 percent of the defensive snaps. That number will increase in Arizona. Last year in New York playing under former Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher in a system closer to what the Cardinals run now, Golden had 10 sacks.

In 2016 – his last full season in Arizona before an ACL tear in 2017 derailed his last two years – Golden led the team with 12½ sacks.

"Supply and demand tells you there aren't many outside linebackers out there that can rush the passer," General Manager Steve Keim said. "The fact that we drafted him, and we have a relationship with Markus already, it made it easy to pull the trigger because we know the kind of player he is and who he is as a person.

"He's a guy I've always admired because of his mentality, his motor, his love and passion for the game. To be able to acquire him at this point in the season when we do need some depth at that spot to me will only ignite that passion and that excitement in our locker room."

Between blitzes, the emergence of Reddick and unexpected help from Dennis Gardeck, the Cardinals have been able to tread water after Jones got hurt.

But even before Golden's arrival, Reddick felt that role of the defense couldn't be buying into excuses.

"It's heartbreaking to see what happened to Chan," Reddick said. "But because he is out, there can't be a shortage of production."

Joseph isn't specific about how he'll deploy Golden yet. Reddick is playing well, as is Devon Kennard on the other side. But Joseph's enthusiasm for Golden is apparent.

The man they call "Junk" -- short for the "Junkyard Dog" moniker he picked up soon after arriving in Arizona -- brings more than just pressure off the edge. That energy the Cardinals seek week-to-week in the near-empty stadiums of 2020? Golden is one of those guys that will juice up his teammates. That was as much his role during his first go-round with the Cards as sack man.

"As a kid, I used to be so hype playing football, and then after I used to be, not embarrassed, but like, 'Dang, why was I acting that crazy?' " Golden said in 2018. "Then it was like, I accepted it. I loved playing ball, I loved to compete."

That's what the Cardinals are counting on.

"He overwhelms tackles just with effort," Joseph said. "And that's what it takes in this league. Most sacks aren't cute rushes. It's dirty, it's grimy and it's tough. That's the kind of player he is.

"With his relentless personality, he is going to make plays for us."

Images of the Cardinals cheerleaders during the "Sunday Night Football" matchup against Seattle at State Farm Stadium.