The majority of pass-rushers would be quite satisfied with the season Chandler Jones posted in 2018.
The Cardinals’ star had 13 sacks and three forced fumbles, continuing his run as one of the game’s most potent pressure artists.
But for a player who has reached the mountaintop, this was a step below – and the two-time Pro Bowler has reason to believe he can peak again in 2019.
The Cardinals are switching back to the 3-4 defensive alignment that helped produce a career year for Jones in 2017. He will go from defensive end to outside linebacker, a transition that has Jones “very excited.”
“I know the last time I played outside linebacker, I led the NFL in sacks,” Jones said following his appearance at an anti-bullying assembly at Valencia Newcomer School in Phoenix on Tuesday.
Jones had 17 sacks, 28 tackles for loss and 33 quarterback hits in 2017, all career-highs. He was noticeably lighter on his feet that year – giving offensive linemen trouble with both his length and speed – and will be slimmed down again in 2019.
Jones said he was up to 280 pounds heading into training camp last year and is now around 255.
“I’m ready to go,” Jones said.
Images of the Cardinals' star pass-rusher joining the "Be Kind Crew" to spread positivity at Valencia Newcomer School in Phoenix on Tuesday morning
The 29-year-old will be buoyed by the addition of Terrell Suggs, the veteran pass-rusher the Cardinals signed to a one-year deal in free agency. The Cardinals tied for fifth in the NFL with 49 sacks a season ago, but there was no clear-cut second weapon beyond Jones.
Even though Suggs will be 37 this season, he has 26 sacks over the past three years.
“No more double teams,” Jones said. “Someone with a big name like Terrell Suggs, it will be great for us. I’m excited to have him.”
Jones was bracing for a tussle regarding jersey No. 55 – Suggs wore it his whole career in Baltimore -- until he learned the new guy is fine with picking a different number.
“So I’m No. 55?” Jones said. “I didn’t know that. I thought he was going to reach out and give me a price or something. He’s giving me the number? That’s cool. There’s no fight about it.”
Jones had a wide smile throughout the two-hour assembly on Tuesday morning, helping preach the power of positivity to a room full of elementary school students.
He’s feeling similarly enthused about the Cardinals’ fortunes. Jones has been watching Broncos tape to get a sense of new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and believes the scheme will utilize him well. He also received a glowing review of coach Kliff Kingsbury from Tom Brady, who has been teammates with both of them.
Jones said last year’s 3-13 showing is in the rearview mirror.
“Totally different team,” Jones said. “New coaches. New players. A lot of different faces and new positions. I’m excited to see what we have set for us. I think this is going to be good.”