HENDERSON, Nev. — Chandler Jones has seen this script before.
In fact, he starred in the movie.
It was in 2016, the season opener, and, as the schedule-making gods would have it, Jones would play his first home game for his new team (the Arizona Cardinals) against his old team (the New England Patriots).
Jones announced his presence with authority. He sacked Jimmy Garoppolo, who was starting in place of Tom Brady, who was serving a suspension for his role in the Deflategate scandal. He hit Garoppolo another time, racked up five tackles and recovered a Garoppolo fumble on a strip-sack by Markus Golden.
Predictably, Jones downplayed his personal success against the team that drafted him and with whom he had spent his first four NFL seasons. The same way the four-time Pro Bowl edge rusher is downplaying any need for revenge against the Cardinals in the Las Vegas Raiders‘ home opener on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS) or what to expect from his former team coming off a bad loss.
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“You know, it’s [just] another week, honestly,” Jones said. “I think it will be fun that I get a chance to play against my old team, but us going into Week 2, hopefully we can just end up in the win column this week.”
Jones, 32, was acquired to bookend with Pro Bowl defensive MVP Maxx Crosby as the Raiders essentially swapped him in for Yannick Ngakoue, who led Las Vegas with 10 sacks last season but was traded to the Indianapolis Colts for cornerback Rock Ya-Sin on the same day Jones signed.
But in the Raiders’ 24-19 season-opening loss at the Los Angeles Chargers, neither Crosby nor Jones got home. They were shut out in the sack column but combined for seven pass rush wins, according to TruMedia, and three QB hits on Justin Herbert, according to Pro Football Reference. Jones had two of those pass rush wins against Herbert, with one hit.
The Cardinals bring a more mobile quarterback in Kyler Murray.
“We got close a handful of times last week and, again, I think we talk about this a lot, our job when we rush the passer is not necessarily to sack the quarterback, but it’s to affect him,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said. “And I think if you affect him, then you give other people an opportunity to make plays, too. If the coverage is doing their job and you’re getting close, eventually you’re going to get close enough to put him on the ground. I think the pass rush and the pass coverage needs to be very complementary.
“This week in particular, you need to do a really good job in both, because if you’re undisciplined with the rush, it will be a problem. And if you give them opportunities to get it out of [Murray’s] hand quickly, then the rush will never have a chance. … The pass rush is different against this player than it is against most other quarterbacks … so, [Jones and Crosby are] going to need to be disciplined, the coverage is going to need to be what it needs to be on a given play based on what we choose to do, and work together the entire time.”
One regular-season game is a small sample, no doubt, but Jones has been with the team since March and his imprint on the locker room is already palpable. On both sides of the ball.
Because, as receiver Davante Adams, himself a newbie to the Raiders, said, Jones’ “vibe and his spirit, day to day” are a soothing influence.
“I almost can’t wait to see Chan in the morning, because you know what you’re going to get — he’s got an infectious type of personality,” Adams said. “Then you get him on the field and then you talk about a guy — I think this is Year  or so for him now — just the way he goes about his business, the type of examples that he sets, the type of leader that he is to a leader like Maxx. He can continue to help him grow as a leader as well.
“[Jones is] not a big rah-rah dude. He’s not going to come out and yell at you to do whatever. … He knows what he’s doing, and there’s a lot of intent to his work ethic. Anytime you change teams, it’s not easy to come into a new building and just establish yourself as a leader. So, the way he’s done it is something that I can admire for sure.”
Crosby told ESPN on the day Jones signed that his new teammate was “one of the best to ever do it” and said he’s a “great person on top of it” all.
Indeed, Canton might come calling Jones when he’s done.
Jones, the No. 21 overall pick by the Patriots in 2012 out of Syracuse, leads all active players with 107.5 career sacks (in 140 games) and has had double-digit sacks in seven of 10 seasons. He led the NFL with 17.0 sacks for Arizona in 2017 and had a career-high 19 in 2019.
And while he had 10.5 sacks last season, five of them came in the season opener. Meaning he has had just 5.5 sacks in his past 17 regular-season games.
But, as McDaniels said, getting home is only part of the journey.
“Just being able to gel with the guys,” Jones said of what he has enjoyed thus far with his new team. “You know, as long as I’ve been in the league, it was a little different, you know, going to a new team because I haven’t done it in a while. But, you kind of get that first-day-of-school feeling — you don’t want to say or do the wrong things. Going through camp, learning new guys, their names, just asking about them, their families, their friends. It’s just the camaraderie, networking. And so I enjoy learning a new group of guys.”