While the Arizona Cardinals will not be playing into January this season, there is one piece of postseason hardware they still hope to see make its way to the desert.
The Cardinals believe defensive end Chandler Jones should be ripe for consideration for Defensive Player of the Year honors. Jones enters the final week of the regular as the league’s sack leader. A four-sack effort against the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday brought his season total to 19 sacks with a week to play. He’s the first defender to even sack Russell Wilson four times in a game.
If Jones is able to get a sack against the Los Angeles Rams this weekend, he’ll record just the 13th season of 20 sacks of more since the stat became official in 1982.
“What he’s done is incredible,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said, via Tyler Drake of ArizonaSports.com. “That’s a huge year. If he gets 20 sacks, that’s rare air. I was in Houston when [J.J.] Watt won his first [Defensive Player of the Year] award and it was a special year. He’s doing it. If he gets one or two [sacks] this week, he’s the guy in my opinion.
“It’s the best player on defense award, not the team’s award, so in my opinion, if he gets 20 sacks that rare air, and that’s NFL history, so he should be the player of the year.”
A 20-sack season hasn’t correlated directly to Defensive Player of the Year honors as much as you might think. Of the 13 times players have reached 20 sacks in a season, only six won the award for that year: Aaron Donald (Rams, 2018), J.J. Watt (Texans, 2014, 2012), Michael Strahan (Giants, 2001), Reggie White (Eagles, 1987) and Lawrence Taylor (Giants, 1986).
But the fact that Jones is doing it on a bad team may actually be more impressive. With the Cardinals trailing in games frequently this year, he hasn’t had as many chances to chase the quarterback in obvious passing situations. That’s what Larry Fitzgerald believes sets Jones apart.
“I know Stefon Gilmore’s had an unbelievable year, [Tre’Davious] White’s had a great year … but I don’t think anybody’s been more dominant than Chandler,” Fitzgerald said. “Buffalo’s won 10 games, Patriots have won 12 games. Those guys are playing the lead, those defensive players get a chance to [make plays]. Those teams are trying to catch up.
“We’ve been trailing in a lot of games this year, even games that we’ve won and Chandler, what he’s done has been unbelievable. … You look at all the teams that are playing at a high level, there’s usually guys on the defensive side that reap the rewards because they’re on really good football teams. That’s not the case with Chandler, so I think that’s even more special about what he’s been able to accomplish.”