Once Chandler Jones left the Cardinals as a free agent, the de facto top pass rusher on the team became Markus Golden.
The thing is, Golden doesn't really see how anything has changed.
"Even when Chandler was here, I'm the No. 1 guy to me," Golden said after the final minicamp practice off the offseason. "That's why I'm able to perform at a high level no matter who I am playing with
"I respect him and learned a lot from Chandler. I can seriously say he helped me become the player I am today. But whether I am playing with Chandler or anyone else, I feel like I'm a No. 1 (pass rusher.) You've got to have that mindset."
That Golden thinks that way is not a surprise. The veteran outside linebacker's confidence has been high since the day he was drafted by the Cardinals in the second round in 2015, and if anything has strengthened since spending a season-and-a-half in New York with the Giants before coming back to the Cardinals in mid-2020.
Jones got off to the rousing five-sack start in Week 1 of 2021, but it was Golden who ultimately led the team in sacks with 11, the third time he's reached double digits in his career.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph talked earlier in the offseason about losing Jones and the need to scheme up some pass rush this season, "but at the end of the day we got to rush four and win 1-on-1s."
Given that the outside linebacking corps has Devon Kennard and Dennis Gardeck, along with draft picks Cameron Thomas, Myjai Sanders and Jesse Luketa, the Cardinals figure to lean heavy on Golden to be one of those winners.
"Markus Golden, I'm not worried," linebacker Isaiah Simmons said. "He's had three years of double-digits sacks. It does suck to lose a guy like Chandler, but we have a lot of guys who will step up and fill in."
Golden plans to lead the way, not only with his play but his mentorship. He praised the rookies for their work in minicamp, encouraged by the groundwork they were laying.
"I felt weird coming in the first day because Chandler wasn't out there," Golden said. "It felt crazy. But at the same time I'm glad we've got the guys we've got. Like everyone has been saying, you can't replace Chandler. But you can get out there and hunt. I'm going to do my part and hunt and know the guys we've got are going to be ready to hunt too."
Golden spent the bulk of his offseason – he did not attend voluntary workouts – training on his own and spending time with his children, the latter an important focus as they get older.
That had been the plan anyway, but Golden also understands he heads into another contract year, the fourth time he will have played out his deal in his nine-year career.
"I'm working hard for you, and I hope you do the right thing for me," Golden said. "That's just how I am. I'm not worried about to the point, 'Man, I'm not going to play, I'm not going to do this or that.'
"But the fact is, you do out, you work hard, and if you go out and compete and do your job at a high level, and you you've got the organization's back, you just expect them to have your back too."
Images from the last day of Cardinals minicamp in 2022