This week the Arizona Cardinals will be playing the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams are known for their defense, particularly upfront where getting after the quarterback is a way of life.
But the one to watch this Sunday may not be donning the blue and gold. The one to watch could, maybe just perhaps, be the second year OLB Markus Golden, who will be playing for Arizona.
This 2nd round 2015 Cardinals Draft pick is finding his way in 2016, straight to the quarterback. Golden has registered a sack in each of the first three games this season, along with Arizona’s other starting OLB, Chandler Jones (both have a sack in each game). There is a lot to consider here, about who the opposing teams are primarily concerned with blocking, but before we get into the duo’s dynamics, let’s first get acquainted with one Markus Golden.
After starting in Junior College, Golden spent the rest of his college days at Missouri, aka Mizzou. He had some minor stats in 2012, but he really started making a name for himself in 2013, as a Junior playing second string behind a guy named Michael Sam (yes, that Michael Sam). Even on limited time, Golden registered 6.5 sacks, 1 forced a fumble, 55 total tackles, and also had a interception with a 70 yard return.
In his Senior year as the starter, Golden was good for 8 sacks, 70 total tackles, and 3 forced fumbles. Golden really turned some heads in his final college game, where he was named MVP of the Citrus Bowl. Golden had a spectacular showing with a game high 10 tackles, 4 of them for a loss, 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. Many NFL teams were aware of Markus Golden’s progress, but the Arizona Cardinals were the first to acknowledge it with the 58th overall selection in the Draft.
During his NFL rookie campaign, Golden had to again move up the roster. He shared a lot of time with other players, but learned the tricks of the trade that can help a speedy edge rusher make his mark. The numbers might whisper “mediocre” with the 4 sacks he registered, but stat sheets are known to mislead. Truth is Golden also had a team high 16 QB pressures, and he was 2nd on the team with 14 QB hits. While the sack count may not have been astronomical, some of those QB pressures absolutely equated into turnovers for Arizona.
Side Note: Many have speculated that Arizona wanted a pass rusher in the first round of the 2015 Draft. The Cardinals had the 24th pick. The Steelers drafted Bud Dupree with pick number 22. The Broncos then selected Shane Ray with the 23rd pick. Arizona may have taken either one of them, but that just isn’t the way things played out. Arizona went O-line in the first, and picked up Golden in the second round, but here’s the kicker… Bud Dupree, Shane Ray, and Markus Golden all had 4 sacks in their first NFL season.
One of his shining rookie moments was late in the 4th quarter of the Bengals game last November. Arizona had the lead, 28-21, but Cincinnati wasn’t backing down in the Nationally televised Sunday Night show down. Enter Markus Golden, flying around the edge and forcing a strip sack on Andy Dalton. This was one of the key plays that led the Cardinals to a 34-31 victory.
Simply put, Markus Golden is big in big games. If you look at the track record, Golden has proven this throughout his albeit short career. He now finds himself on the other side of Chandler Jones who is a well known guy, especially to offensive coordinators. This probably does benefit Golden in some aspects, but it will also benefit Chandler Jones if Golden continues to work on his sack count.
Another benefit for Golden has been his health. He didn’t miss games in college, and thankfully this has again been the case in the NFL. Arizona’s head coach Bruce Arians is big on durability, he’s big on players practicing, and he’s really big on telling it how it is. The 2 time NFL Coach of the Year doesn’t believe in starting rookies right away, nor does he like putting them in big situations.
“They should be ready to roll by Thanksgiving and count on them by Thanksgiving.” “Our young guys have to step in now and give you depth.” – Bruce Arians on rookies.
Also, injuries are a big part of the game. Bruce Arians seems to be comfortable starting the veterans early, and the rookies are expected to step in and be ready if need be.
The recent NFL sensation (RB) David Johnson can attest to this. His work load really increased during the latter part of his rookie season, after Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington went down. David Johnson finally had his chance to start, and now with all 3 backs healthy, David Johnson has remained the (starting) bell cow.
Both David Johnson and Markus Golden are seeing a lot more time now. But if Golden can stay anywhere near the pace he is at this year, he and David Johnson should be making the Pro Bowl together in just their sophomore year. Not only that, but we could be talking about Arizona’s next all time sack champion. Sounds a bit bold right, but before you chuckle, please allow me to expand.
Your undisputed, current, and all time sack leader for the Arizona Cardinals is Simeon Rice with 50 sacks. That’s pretty good. Calais Campbell has 48.5 through his first 8 seasons, all in Arizona. At some point this year, Campbell will more than likely take the all time Arizona sack title. But believe it or not, and most probably will, the Arizona all time sack list is not that hard to climb.
Markus Golden is only at 7 sacks right now, but he already has 3 in this season after being named starter. Call me crazy, but I have to give him at least 6 more this year with 13 games remaining (barring any injuries to he or Chandler Jones – who is playing in a contract year).
That would be 9 sacks this year. Calais Campbell had 9 sacks in his best year at Arizona. Calais plays on the inside, so it’s harder to get the sack count up, but the point that I’m trying to make is… Markus Golden has a chance to be one of the greats in Arizona. If he can average just 8 sacks a year, he will be passing up many players that the Arizona fans have come to adore.
It’s not just the talent for me, we’ve seen many talented players fall along the NFL wayside. For myself, it’s also the durability, which speaks volumes to this possibility. That, and the way that this Cardinal Organization has tried to keep the talent in the desert recently. This is especially true when we think of (GM) Steve Keim. If you can play he wants you to stay. If you can play he will pay. Well, technically, the Owner Mike Bidwill will be signing the checks but I digress.
What I’ve learned from watching Markus Golden, and from researching this piece, is that he excels with time. Whether it’s in High School, college, or the pros, Golden will eventually work his way into the spotlight. As I mentioned earlier, he already has 3 sacks this year. I don’t see him slowing down, I only see him continuing to get better.
Sure, anything can happen. He could find himself on another team, injuries are always a concern in this League, but Markus Golden has the chance to become the dominant pass rusher Arizona has long been searching for. Time will tell, and yes this is basically just one guy’s opinion.
Feel free to comment here, or hit me up on twitter @ShawnRivard777.
More stories you might like