Cardinals Reaping Benefits of 3 Ex-Giants Including Markus Golden

Getty Images Markus Golden celebrates a defensive play with his teammates against the Cleveland Browns on October 17, 2021.

The number of contributors to credit for the Arizona Cardinals 37-14 win against the Cleveland Browns feels endless. The big names such as Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green and J.J. Watt all performed in massive ways.

But we can’t forget about the little people too. The ones who don’t grab the headlines. The always-reliable veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks had two sacks on Baker Mayfield and now has a team-leading 42 tackles.

Cornerback Robert Alford picked off Mayfield and had three passes defended. He was also the fourth-highest graded defensive Cardinal according to PFF.

Now, it’s low-hanging fruit to make fun of the New York Giants. They’re 1-5 and have the worst record in the league since 2017.

But there are three former Giants that have made key differences in Arizona, and one of them has gotten a second go-around with the team.

Markus Golden

Markus Golden was drafted in the second round by the Cardinals in 2013. His breakout season occurred in 2016 when he accumulated a career-high 12.5 sacks and was third in the league. However, Golden tore his ACL in the following year, only starting four games. In 2018, Golden only played 11 games and had an ankle injury that kept him out for the final two games.

Once free agency arrived, the Giants signed Golden to a one-year deal. Golden hit the ground running and finished with 10 sacks, the most by a Giants linebacker since Hall-of-Famer Lawrence Taylor.

Golden signed a one-year tender to return to New York in 2020. After a slow start, the Giants traded Golden back to Arizona for a 2021 sixth-round pick. At 1-6, it was understandable that New York traded him as he was a soon-to-be free agent.

In Week 14 against his former team, Golden got back at his former team and recorded a strip-sack on Daniel Jones that he also recovered during the 26–7 victory. After a solid second-half, the Cards gave him a two-year deal.

Let’s just say Golden has been a dominant force with the Cardinals in 2021. Golden is one of four players in the league with three forced fumbles this season.

What’s the secret to this season on defense for this undefeated squad?

On Arizona Sports 98.7 Burns and Gambo, Golden was asked what is the secret sauce on defense this year?

“You got to go with the coaches. We got a bunch of hard-working guys. They’re staying together. We want to be able to rush the passer and get to the quarterback. That’s what we did yesterday and that’s what we focused on all week. Baker is a good player, but we want to get to the quarterback no matter who he is.”

Golden had himself a career day against the Browns. He led the team with a PFF grade of 87.5 and had 5 tackles, 2 QB hits and one tackle for loss.

His relentless sack on Mayfield just shows how he never gives up on a play.

The Cards have literally struck gold again with Golden.

Justin Pugh

This ex-Giant is a little different than Golden. Left guard Justin Pugh was drafted by the Giants in the first round in 2013 and gave New York good years in the beginning of his rookie deal.

Unfortunately, injuries played a factor and limited Pugh to just signed a five-year deal with Arizona in 2018.

The injuries continued for Pugh in 2018, missing eight games. But when Pugh is on the field, he’s been a quality player since 2019.

Let’s just say Giants fans miss Pugh beyond belief. They still haven’t replaced Pugh after three years.

Pugh has allowed zero sacks in 2021 and while it has a lot to do with his play, Murray’s escapability in the pocket goes a long way too.

“When things go south, which they often do in the NFL, to have a magic eraser is huge, and Kyler’s been great for us,” Pugh said. “It makes you smile.”

Pugh even likened Murray’s play a bit more than two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning.

“I used to block for the complete opposite of Kyler in Eli Manning. I think I got a penalty one time and Eli had like a 15-yard rush, and I wiped out the longest rush of his career. Blocking for Kyler is way different. Both great quarterbacks. Not trying to take away from (Manning), Eli’s my guy. It’s much different. It’s something that you have to get used to.”

Colt McCoy

While Colt McCoy doesn’t play a huge role in terms of playing time, he’s been a helpful guide not only in the locker room but in Kyler Murray’s ear.

The 35-year-old long-time veteran has been with five teams in his career. After a six-year tenure with the Washington Football Team, McCoy went to a division rival in the Giants. He actually played in four games, including two starts. In one of those starts, the Giants beat the Seahawks in arguably their best win of the season 17-12.

The Cards missed a veteran presence in 2020. But once McCoy became a free agent, Steve Keim wasted no time.

“Colt has a great reputation for being a leader, a guy who is great in the locker room,” Keim said. “To add a veteran player that hopefully can have that type of influence not only in the locker room but in the quarterback room. Kyler is a guy we are so excited about, the improvements he’s made from year one to year two, now taking that next step to year three is so critical. To have a guy like Colt McCoy could be beneficial to Kyler not only on the practice field but even on game days, what he is seeing out there, the coverages he is getting, how defenses are playing us.”

McCoy razzes Murray on the rivalry between their college teams in Texas and Oklahoma too.

Against the Browns, without coach Kliff Kingsbury, Arizona had to lean on Kyler Murray calling audibles and offensive line coach Sean Kugler along with assistant wide receivers coach Spencer Whipple to call plays.

But the backup quarterback McCoy relayed communication as well. The Cardinals could’ve easily used McCoy’s voice and even play at the end of 2020 when Murray couldn’t play Week 17.

You may not see McCoy on the field, but his leadership cannot be overstated.

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