He leads the Cardinals in sacks with six and has four in the last two games with Chandler Jones sidelined on the COVID-19 list. He leads the NFL with four forced fumbles and had two sacks, a forced fumble and recovery Sunday against Houston.
That game came on the exact one-year anniversary (Oct. 24) of the day the Cardinals officially acquired outside linebacker Markus Golden from the New York Giants for a sixth-round pick in the 2021 draft.
That trade was consummated the day after the Giants had played the Philadelphia Eagles in a Thursday night game. Coincidentally, this year after the Eagles played Tampa Bay in a Thursday night game in Week 6, general manager Steve Keim did it again, acquiring tight end Zach Ertz from the Eagles.
Another eerie coincidence is that the Eagles scored 22 points in both Thursday games. Of course, that has little to do with the impact Golden’s play and personality is having on the Cardinals defense.
Golden surely isn’t surprised that one year after the trade that brought him back to the desert, the Cardinals are undefeated in 2021.
“We got a quarterback like Kyler Murray, you got a quarterback that leads the offense, you got a chance to be an undefeated team,” Golden said. “So I give credit to Kyler. He worked his tail off to lead this team. And I'm glad to be back, man. I'm glad to be back. I'm supposed to be an Arizona Cardinal and I'm glad to be back here where I'm supposed to be.”
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph loves having three quality pass rushers that makes it difficult for opponents to defend.
Joseph said, “I think Markus Golden is a guy that you have to account for and with Chan (Chandler Jones) and with J.J. (Watt), it's hard to account for three guys. Markus right now is getting the one-on-ones and he's winning. He's got six sacks right now and he's fallen off two or three. But he's a guy that can win a one-on-one and that's the benefit of having Chandler and having J.J. If they double-team those guys too much, he gets a one-on-one on the back side. So it's good to have three guys who can actually win a one-on-one matchup. It keeps the protections fair.”
Golden had learning to do when he came to the team in the middle of the 2020 season, and Joseph has witnessed his growth in the scheme
“He's obviously gotten better and better with his assignments; he's a guy that works hard,” Joseph said. “He's healthier this year, so you can see it. He’s explosive. He was a guy (two) years ago, who was a 10-sack guy. That's tough to do in this league. And right now he's on pace to be a 12-sack guy, so we'll see. But he is all-in. His energy, his toughness, it's definitely a good lift for our defense.”
Golden had 12.5 sacks for the Cardinals in 2016.
Fellow linebacker Jordan Hicks loves what Golden brings to the defense.
“Every single day, he's probably the most positive, energetic person on this team,” Hicks said. “It's a blast. And I tell him all the time; it's a privilege to play with him because he's a great leader. He's a great friend. He's a great human being and somebody that you want to be around, to be able to go out there and play with him week in and week out and be in a locker room with him day in and day out and just bring a smile to your face and have a good laugh.
“But then also go out there and watch him ball out and bring that dog out is exciting to see. So he's an awesome player. He's an awesome person. And it's a pleasure being here with him.”
After Sunday’s game against the Texans, Golden was asked what has been working so well the last two games.
He said simply, “I'm always huntin'. That's just me. I've been doing that since I got in the NFL. I've been huntin', I'm always huntin'. Same thing I do in practice every day, working hard. It's paying off and I always give credit to my teammates and coaches because I'm not out there by myself.
“You got to have coverage to get sacks, you got to have some good plays called up and then I'm gonna make sure I do my part no matter what. I do my part every day and it’s paying off on game day, so I'm gonna keep on going.”