Arizona Cardinals edge rusher Chandler Jones made his return from biceps surgery last season with a career-high five sacks Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a performance that put him on pace to break the NFL's single-season sack record and put him in early contention for his first Defensive Player of the Year award.
Just ask LeBron James.
The Los Angeles Lakers star tweeted twice during the Cardinals' 38-13 win, the first coming after Jones had three sacks of Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the first quarter, becoming the first player since Jacksonville's Chris Clemons in 2014 to get three in a first quarter. James' second endorsement of Jones for DPOY came after Jones' fourth sack.
Jones challenged Michael Strahan's record of 22.5 sacks in 2019 but came up short, finishing with 19. Jones had just one sack last season before suffering a season-ending biceps injury in Week 5.
Jones spent the offseason preparing to chase Strahan's record and his work showed up Sunday. His time-to-sack average was 3.48 seconds, which was his second-fastest time-to-sack average in a game where he had multiple sacks since NFL Next Gen Stats started tracking the stat in 2016.
James wasn't the only one excited about Jones' accomplishment. His teammates were, too.
"it's great to see Chan do what he did," quarterback Kyler Murray said. "It's a beautiful thing to see. When you genuinely love somebody, you're boys with them, and he goes out there and does what he does, man, he deserves it all for sure."
Got my ass kicked today, no way around that. I let the team and the fans down. Thank you @chanjones55 for exposing me. It will only force me to get better.— Taylor Lewan (@TaylorLewan77) September 12, 2021
Jones' third sack of the game gave him 100 for his career. He became the eighth player since the NFL began tracking sacks to reach triple digits in career sacks in the first 125 games of his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The only other active players to reach that mark are Jones' teammate J.J. Watt and Denver's Von Miller. With Jones and Watt both having reached 100 sacks for their career, the Cardinals are the first team since 1999 to feature two 100-sack players.
Jones also tied the Cardinals' single-game franchise sacks record that was set last season by former Cardinal Haason Reddick. Sunday's showing by Jones was no surprise given his performance throughout training camp, coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
"He was unblockable most of training camp to the point where it's like, 'Hey, we can only pass when he's out of game' type of deal," Kingsbury said after the game. "He was awesome. So, I didn't know if he'd have five, but I knew he would impact the game. There was no doubt."