The defensive challenge awaiting the Arizona Cardinals in Cleveland may have just gotten a little more difficult.
The Cardinals placed pass rusher Chandler Jones on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, October 12, due to a positive test, ESPN’s Field Yates first reported. Because Jones is vaccinated, he would still be able to play against the Browns on Sunday, October 17, if he first produces two negative tests 24 hours apart.
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Not having Jones available to play against the Browns (3-2) would be a huge loss for the Cardinals (5-0). The linebacker leads Arizona in sacks with five — all coming in the Cardinals’ 38-13 season-opening road win over the Tennessee Titans.
The Cardinals’ run defense will be particularly important against the Browns, who’re averaging an NFL-leading 187.6 yards per game on the ground.
Cleveland running back Nick Chubb is the NFL’s second-leading rusher with 523 yards (104.6 per game), while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. The Browns also have Kareem Hunt, who adds another 295 yards (59 per game) on 5.4 yards per carry.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, have struggled to stop the run, allowing 139 yards per game for fifth-most in the NFL.
If Jones is not able to play against the Browns, the Cardinals likely will turn to linebackers Markus Golden and Devon Kennard to play a larger role. Linebacker and special teams captain Dennis Gardeck also could see his reps increase if Jones isn’t available.
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Jones Overcomes Challenging Offseason
After missing the final 11 games last season with a biceps injury, Jones had a huge 2021 debut against the Titans, sacking quarterback Ryan Tannehill five times and stripping him of the ball twice.
The five sacks tied a franchise record and set a career-high for Jones, who’s now in his 11th NFL season. The performance also earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
While he hasn’t had a sack since the season-opener, Jones has been a consistent performer for the Cardinals. He has nine tackles, 14 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery so far this season.
Jones, 31, is in the final year of the five-year contract he signed with the Cardinals in March 2017. Arizona acquired the three-time Pro Bowl selection in March 2016 in a trade that sent offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper and a 2016 second-round draft pick to the New England Patriots.
Prior to his injury-plagued 2020 season, Jones was dominant in his first four years in Arizona, averaging 15 sacks per season during that stretch. His 19 sacks in 2019 were second most in the NFL behind Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett (19.5).
Unhappy with his contract, Jones skipped the team’s minicamp and OTA workouts in May and June. By July, word had gotten out that he had asked the Cardinals to trade him during the offseason.
Jones publicly addressed the trade rumors on September 15 and confirmed that he made the request. He has not commented on the contract situation since then, saying he’s keeping his focus on the field.