TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals expected the news but it still wasn’t fun to hear: All-Pro linebacker Chandler Jones is out for the season because of a biceps injury that requires surgery.
An MRI earlier this week confirmed the extent of the injury, which happened during the first half of Arizona’s 30-10 win over the New York Jets on Sunday, and coach Kliff Kingsbury said Wednesday that Jones has elected to have the season-ending surgery. The recovery time is expected to be three to four months.
The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Jones has been one of the league’s premier pass rushers since coming to Arizona, with 61 sacks over the past 4 1/2 seasons. He’s also been durable up until Sunday and played in all 16 games from 2016-19.
“Losing a guy like that, it’s going to be tough,” Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. “You can try your best to replace him, but he’s a talent that’s generational. You look at the things he’s done in his career — not a lot of people have done that.”
It’s a huge blow for the Cardinals’ defense, which has improved after giving up the most total yards in the NFL last season. Jones had a career-high 19 sacks in 2019. He only had one sack this season while frequently drawing double-teams from opposing blockers.
Kingsbury said the team would need a collective effort to replace Jones. Candidates include Hasson Reddick, rookie Isaiah Simmons and backup Dennis Gardeck, who had his first two sacks against the Jets after Jones was hurt.
“He’s a tremendous player as we all know. Great person, great leader on this team, so it’s not going to be easy,” Kingsbury said. “But we’ve got guys who have seen playing time this year and will continue to play and get more. It’ll be a rotation, guys we’ve seen out there we’ll just see out there more.”
Simmons was the No. 8 overall pick in this year’s draft after a stellar career at Clemson, but has had a slow start to his rookie season. He has seven tackles through five games in inconsistent playing time. Kingsbury is still high on Simmons, but said the lack of practice time during the spring and summer because of COVID-19 restrictions has slowed his development.
Reddick — who was the 13th overall pick in the 2017 draft — has 10 tackles, including two sacks this season. Gardeck has been a standout special teams player during his three seasons with the Cardinals, but didn’t make an impact on defense until his breakout against the Jets.
The Cardinals (3-2) travel to face the Dallas Cowboys (2-3) on Monday night.
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