The Arizona Cardinals lost Chandler Jones off their defense but believe they still have playmakers to get after the passer.
Markus Golden, who led the Cards with 11 sacks in 2021, is now vaulted into the true No. 1 pass rusher role. But the 31-year-old has always viewed himself as a top dog.
"Even when Chandler was here, I'm the No. 1 guy to me," Golden said, via the team's official website. "That's why I'm able to perform at a high level no matter who I am playing with.
"I respect him and learned a lot from Chandler. I can seriously say he helped me become the player I am today. But whether I am playing with Chandler or anyone else, I feel like I'm a No. 1 (pass rusher). You've got to have that mindset."
Jones earned 71.5 sacks in six seasons with Arizona from 2016-2021, the third-most in the NFL over that span.
Golden has generated three double-digit sack seasons in his seven-year career, and after returning to Arizona midway through the 2020 season, he formed a potent pairing with Jones. Now that the latter has moved on, Golden will have to deal with offenses sending more help his way.
"I felt weird coming in the first day because Chandler wasn't out there," Golden said. "It felt crazy. But at the same time I'm glad we've got the guys we've got. Like everyone has been saying, you can't replace Chandler. But you can get out there and hunt. I'm going to do my part and hunt and know the guys we've got are going to be ready to hunt too."
The Cardinals are counting on Devon Kennard, Dennis Gardeck, and rookies Cameron Thomas (third round), Myjai Sanders (third round) and Jesse Luketa (seventh round) to help fill the hole left by Jones. The youngsters will play a vital role if the J.J. Watt-led D is to bounce back after struggling down the stretch last season.
In 2021, Arizona went from allowing 18.4 points per game (fourth fewest) in Weeks 1-11 to 27.3 points per game from Weeks 12-18, 28th in the league.