Chandler Jones and the unfortunate anonymity of the desert

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 30: Defensive end Chandler Jones #55 of the Arizona Cardinals sacks quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter at State Farm Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 30: Defensive end Chandler Jones #55 of the Arizona Cardinals sacks quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter at State Farm Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /

Arizona Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones continues to fly under the radar despite being a likely future Hall of Famer.

The list isn’t long. In fact, it reads as follows: Terrell Suggs, Von Miller, Cameron Wake, J.J. Watt, Clay Matthews, Ryan Kerrigan, Calais Campbell.

That’s it. That’s the list of active players with more career sacks than Chandler Jones, premiere pass rusher for the Arizona Cardinals. Even within that brief description, it’s possible to find why Jones deserves a spotlight as big as anyone other defender in the NFL and also the reason he will never receive it.


Right now, Chandler Jones has 4.5 sacks for the Cardinals early in a season in which they are trying to build some real excitement in the desert. That gives him a total of 81.5 sacks in his career, a great total for a player just in his eighth NFL season (10.2 sacks/season). He also has 141 more quarterback hits, 94 tackles for a loss, 22 forced fumbles and 20 batted passes.

To summarize, Jones, who is now 29-years-old, is one of the NFL’s most disruptive defenders, a premiere pass rusher whose career stats align him with the greatest to ever play the game. By the time he hangs up his cleats, his numbers should make him a lock for Canton—that is, if anyone can or will pay attention.

Back to that list. Suggs is in a class of his own (and is now actually Jones’ teammate in Arizona) and is a first ballot Hall of Fame entrant whenever he wants to retire. He has 136.5 sacks and he needs only 5.5 more to top Michael Strahan at No. 6 on the NFL’s all-time list. A longtime superstar in this league, Suggs’ future has been set for some time.

Von Miller would be the same, a future Hall of Famer who has 19 more sacks than Chandler in one more season of play. Yet once you reach Cameron Wake, who is actually tied with Miller, you start to get into numbers that sound like Chandler Jones. A quick example:

Jones is averaging 10.2 sacks/season as we said earlier. The rest of that list, just to provide some perspective:

  • Terrell Suggs, 136.5 career sacks (8.0 sacks/season)
  • Von Miller, 100.5 career sacks (11.2)
  • Cam Wake, 100.5 career sacks (9.1)
  • J.J. Watt, 96 career sacks (10.7)
  • Clay Matthews, 89.5 career sacks (8.1)
  • Ryan Kerrigan, 86 career sacks (9.6)
  • Calais Campbell, 84.5 career sacks (7.0)

*Each stat includes this season in the average.

Here the stats tell a bit better story about Jones. The only players with more career sacks (speaking to the importance of longevity in the NFL) are these seven players, yet Jones is outperforming all of them except for Von Miller and J.J. Watt.

If we project out Jones’s stats for another two years—which seems a very, very safe estimate given how long his peers have lasted at such a high level—he will have 110 career sacks at the end of the 2021 season. That’s a total that would put him at No. 23 overall on the NFL’s all-time pass rushing list at the age of 31. In other words, he could have proven himself to be an all-time elite pass rusher and still have plenty in the tank.

Here’s the bottom line: Chandler Jones will, barring injury, very likely land on the list of the league’s all-time best sack artists in just two years. It’s entirely possible that he plays beyond that, which likely means landing Simeon Rice territory on year and Derrick Thomas terrain the next.


If this is all true, then the next question is obvious: where’s the recognition?

Perhaps the greatest evidence that the Pro Bowl is nothing more than a lame popularity contest is the fact that Chandler Jones has only two invitations to the NFL’s All-Star exhibition on his resume: 2015 and 2017. He’s also only been named an All-Pro once, again in 2017. Somehow his previous seasons with 13 sacks or 11.5 sacks or 11 sacks weren’t worthy of such a nod.

That gives Jones as many Pro Bowl appearances as, let’s say… Detroit Lions long snapper Don Muhlbach.

The problem is the desert. The trade that sent Chandler Jones from the bright lights of Boston wasn’t just a major error for the New England Patriots (who got swindled in the deal for a second round pick and guard Jon Cooper). The trade was also the last real ounce of recognition that Jones would ever receive in the national media. Once he’d arrived in Arizona, his days of being a household name were over.

Even when they were Super Bowl contenders, the Cardinals have never been a major draw. The West Coast has far more exciting teams—e.g. Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers—and others vying for even more attention—e.g. two teams recently relocating to Los Angeles. It doesn’t help that the Cards have been basement dwellers during Jones’ stint with the team. Somehow Steve Keim won’t go away, which means the team will likely continue to tread water for some time.

Despite the arrival of Kyler Murray, the presence of future Hall inductee Larry Fitzgerald, and a surprisingly good overall defensive unit on the verge of getting Patrick Peterson back from suspension, no one really cares to see the Cardinals play. The Cardinals ranked 25th last year in average attendance and 28th this year.  By association, that means no one has been watching Jones dominate.

When it comes down to it, Jones career might end up much like that of Sean Jones, a player with 113 career sacks who went to a single Pro Bowl in ’93 with the Houston Oilers, or Greg Townsend, a longtime Raiders pass rusher who went to two Pro Bowls despite 109.5 career sacks. If so, that’s a real shame.

For those watching, Jones has proven to be a consistent, disruptive force—one of the rarest of commodities on an NFL roster. For those not watching, here’s hoping the excitement of Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury can help bring a bigger spotlight to the things that are really worth celebrating in the desert. Jones certainly deserves to be a widely recognized player, someone celebrated nationally by the NFL.