The Arizona Cardinals enter their bout with the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football most likely without their best defensive player in outside linebacker Chandler Jones.
He may just have one sack to his name in 2020, but the hole Jones leaves behind is going to take more than just one player to fill. Everyone’s going to have to step up to the occasion.
“Football is a team sport. You can’t individually replace the impact of somebody like Chandler,” Cardinals linebacker De’Vondre Campbell said via Zoom on Tuesday. “We have to do it as a collective group, as a team, in all three phases: offense, defense and special teams.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen in the near future, but we just have to take it as it comes and just be prepared for the best.”
Jones and the team are awaiting the results of an MRI to determine what the next course of action is after the LB injured his biceps in Arizona’s 30-10 win over the New York Jets. The fear is he could miss the remainder of the season.
If that is the case, it would mark the first time in Jones’ career that he played in less than 10 games. He’s played and started in every game since 2015.
The talent he brings to the gridiron will surely be missed, but so will what he brings off the field and in practice.
“He’s a superstar in this league. He’s the type of guy that leads by example,” Campbell said. “He’s not a ‘look at me’ type of person. He just just comes to work every day. The one thing about Chan is he’s always in a good mood. Since I’ve met him, I’ve never seen him in a bad mood. Even with the injury, he’s still in good spirits. Very positive. His impact is definitely going to be missed.”
The Cardinals’ MNF foe, the Cowboys, enter play without one of their stars in quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott, like Jones, was injured in Week 5. Prescott, however, is already ruled out for the season after the gruesome ankle injury led to surgery later that same day.
With Prescott out, and backup Andy Dalton in his place, starting running back Ezekiel Elliott could be in line for more touches. The RB represents a much taller task for the Cardinals defense than in previous weeks. Elliott ranks second among NFL rushers with five touchdowns on the ground and sixth in rushing yards with 364. He’s averaging 4.1 yards per carry on 89 attempts.
“He’s by far the most complete back we’ve played,” Campbell said. “With Le’Veon [Bell] out for awhile, he had to get his footing back. He’s one of the better backs in this league too, but Zeke’s definitely a top-5 back in this league. He presents many challenges. He runs hard, he can catch it out the backfield, he’s pretty good at protection. When you’re going against a guy like that, you just got to bring your hardhat every play.”
Taking over in Jones’ place on Sunday was a group of linebackers led by Dennis Gardeck and his two-sack outing. The collective effort led to the Jets putting up just 10 points in the loss. They’ll need the same type of play come Monday night without their leader.