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Cardinals hope other pass-rushers flourish alongside Chandler Jones

TEMPE, Ariz. – As a whole, the Arizona Cardinals defense received a jolt when general manager Steve Keim traded for outside linebacker Chandler Jones earlier this month.

But Jones’ addition has coach Bruce Arians believing a handful of players will see their output increase on an individual level – maybe as much as five times from 2015.

“[Defensive tackle] Rodney Gunter’s going to … continue to grow,” Arians said. “[Linebackers] Markus Golden, Alex Okafor, whoever’s in there on the other side. We have a great rotation. I think either one of those other two guys can be double-digit sack guys.

“It’s going to make whoever’s next to him better, especially [defensive tackle] Calais [Campbell], when we put them on the same side.”

Golden had four sacks last season and Okafor had two.

The idea is that having Jones on one side will divert the offensive line’s attention away from Campbell, a two-time Pro Bowler, and the Cardinals’ young crop of pass-rushers. And that having a dual attack off the edge will make it difficult for offenses to plan a blocking scheme, Arians said.

“You’d love to have both, where they can’t always slide one way or the other, and the back stays in or the tight end stays in on one guy,” he added.

The preliminary plan, Arians said, is to keep Jones on one side of the defensive line – most likely the right, where he played 82.7 percent of his snaps for the New England Patriots last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Contrary to what Arians said about Jones recording 12.5 sacks “playing all over the place,” Jones had 11.5 of them either at right end or right outside linebacker, making him a natural fit to replace free-agent outside linebacker Dwight Freeney’s snaps on the side of the defense.

“We’ll see what he can do on one side all the time,” Arians said. “I think he can be pretty dynamic.”

But Jones’ position flexibility – he lined up at 10 different positions last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information – was intriguing to Arizona, Keim said.

“I’ve seen him play a three (gap), I’ve seen him play a five, I’ve seen him bounce outside to a seven and rush the passer,” Keim said. “I’ve seen him cover in the slot. So his length, his athleticism, his ability to change direction and all those things that he has is going to give us a lot of flexibility from a scheme standpoint.

“But, again, with his pass-rush ability, I think most of us would agree that you want to see him rushing up field.”

Getting him in the right position to do that will be defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s responsibility. But Bettcher won’t be tipping his hand as to Jones’ location on every down, Arians said.

“He won’t always be where they know where he’s at,” Arians said. “James Bettcher does a really good job of mismatching guys. So, he’s what we’ve been looking for for a while.”