Four seasons have come and gone since Chandler Jones ventured west from New England to the desert.
Despite Jones' exploits and excellence, the Arizona Cardinals were among the league's most troubled defenses in 2019, giving up a league-high 402 yards per game.
As anticipation and hype builds for the Cardinals' prospects in 2020 with Kyler Murray leading a burgeoning offense, the looming quandary among the cacti and coyotes might well be if the Cardinals have done enough to improve their NFL-worst defense?
Cardinals Defense 2019
Season NFL Rank
PPG Allowed 27.6 28th
Total YPG Allowed 402.0 Last
Pass YPG Allowed 281.9 31st
Rush YPG 120.1 24th
Those aforementioned 402 yards allowed weren't just the most in the NFL, but also the most allowed by the Cardinals in the Super Bowl era. Only the Dolphins allowed more passing touchdowns than the Cardinals' 38, countered by an NFL-low seven interceptions. Arizona tied for 17th in sacks with 40 – hence, Jones had nearly 50% of his team's production there as second-place Terrell Suggs only had 5.5 (and he ended the year playing for the Super Bowl-champion Chiefs).
Jones' 19 sacks were a career-high and second in the league last year, as he earned All-Pro honors and stood tall among the NFL elite. Problem is, he stood alone far too often on a defense that allowed 27.6 points per game (28th in the NFL).
Perhaps reinforcements are on their way, however.
Free safety Budda Baker made his second Pro Bowl and started 16 games for the first time and has become a tackling machine (147 last season, with a league-best 104 solo). Eight-time Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson will be back for an entire season after an abbreviated 2019 in which he missed six games due to a suspension. And there's the addition of hybrid linebacker Isaiah Simmons, who was selected eighth overall. The free-agent additions of defensive tackle Jordan Phillips from Buffalo and linebacker De'Vondre Campbell from Atlanta didn't draw an abundance of acclaim, but could pay dividends.
It's not a mirage, Jones is one of the best talents in the league, even if he's hidden away in the desert on a team seemingly regarded only for the potential of its offense.
Will enough of a supporting cast surround him to make the Cardinals a viable defense? Or at the least, has Arizona's defense improved to the level that it can slow down opponents enough for the team's high-flying offense to lead the way to victories?