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Cardinals Gang Tackling in 2023

2023 NFL Draft - Portraits Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images

Background: KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 27: Paris Johnson Jr. poses for a photo after being selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the No. 6 pick overall in the first round during the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station on April 27, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images.

Cardinals’ new head coach Jonathan Gannon and his defensive coordinator, Nick Rallis, are planning to make “Bird” Gang tackling a weekly feature of their Red Swarm defense —- while on the others side of the ball new GM Monti Ossenfort, assistant GM Dave Sears and offensive coordinator, Drew Petzing, have made it a priority to stockpile a gang of offensive tackles.

The curious thing is that all three of the Cardinals’ tackles who started eight or more games last season have returned for this season —- and per PFF, tackle play was one of the few consistent bright spots on the Cardinals’ underachieving offense in 2022, as Josh Jones (75.8), D.J. Humphries (72.3) and Kelvin Beachum (70.6) finished the season with the 1st, 3rd and 4th best grades on the entire offense.

In free agency, Ossenfort added three veterans who have experience at the tackle position:

  • Dennis Daley (TEN) —- can also play guard
  • Elijah Wilkerson (ATL) —- can also play guard
  • Jackson Barton (LV)

Then, as alluded to in the photo and caption above, the Cardinals, after trading down from #3 to #12 in an effort to acquire the Texans’ 2024 1st round pick, made it a priority to trade back up to #6 in order to select Ohio St. all-American tackles Paris Johnson Jr.

One of the interesting draft stories, which Paris Johnson Jr. initiated himself was Kyler Murray’s interest in Johnson becoming the team’s right tackle.

Earlier at the beginning fo the off-season, the incumbent right tackle, Klevon Beachum, who was re-signed to a modest 2 year deal had this to say about his starting QB:

With Paris Johnson Jr. taking a number of first team reps at right tackle during the team’s OTAs and mandatory mini-camp, the speculation is that PJJ is on track to be the teams’ starting right tackle, while D.J. Humphries is the front runner to remain the starter at left tackle —- that is, if he can stave off camp competition from Cardinals’ 2020 3rd round pick, Josh Jones, who started the team’s final 9 games last season after D.J. was placed on the IR with a back injury—- and remarkably for Josh Jones —- despite playing along side of an entirely makeshift offensive line bereft of its original starters while being led by four different starting QBs over that 9 game span, Josh Jones scored the highest offensive grade (75.8) on the team and finished the season with the 17th best offensive tackle grade in the NFL.

Yet, why does it feels like Josh Jones has been a forgotten and overlooked man?

D.J. Humphries has been lauded by JG as a possessing “high football integrity” as the type of leader, whom the new head coach says, “I have been leaning on very heavily.”

Paris Johnson Jr. has burst onto the scene with extraordinary pizzaz and a go-getter type of charisma.

With Kelvin Beachum and Josh Jones penciled in as backups, one could argue that the Cardinals now possess one of the most talented group of tackles in the NFL and arguably the deepest set of four tackles o planet earth.

When the team’s backup tackles, who started a combined 26 games last season with both having scored PFF grades in the 70s —- the depth at the position is impressive.

Josh Jones has played his best football on the left side, and has expressed his desire to remain on the left side. Kelvin Beachum is the only tackle on the roster who has played respectably well throughout his career at both right and left tackle. Thus, he would appear to be the best suited to be the swing tackle on game days. That is —- if Beach is willing to take on a subordinate role after years of playing well as a starter.

Could Kelvin Beachum ask to be traded if and when it becomes clear that he will no longer be the starter at right tackle? The trade market for him could be fairly robust, especially if and when teams lose players to injuries.

With D.J. Humphries’ injury history, it would seem wise for the Cardinals to hold on to Josh Jones —- but with Jones’ on the final yeat\ of his rookie contract this season and scheduled to become a UFA in 2024 —- would it be wise for Monti Ossenfort to trade Josh Jones to a tackle needy team? What do you think?


Should MO trade Josh Jones?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    (10 votes)
  • 12%
    Wait until trading deadline
    (25 votes)
  • 35%
    (74 votes)
  • 47%
    JJ and PJJ should be 2024 Ts
    (97 votes)
206 votes total Vote Now

The wild card here could be Jackson Barton, whom the Cardinals offensive line coach, Clayton Adams, developed a strong rapport with when the two were with the Colts.

Looking down the road at the 2024 season, with Humphries and Jones scheduled to be free agents, there could be a scenario where the Cardinals shift PJJ over to left tackle and use one of the high draft picks to draft the starting right tackle —- or groom Jackson Barton to take over at right tackle —- or choose to sign a UFA right tackle.

What do you think of those scenarios?

For 2023, however, maybe the best thing would be to keep the whole tackle gang intact —- especially in light of the Cardinals history of having to rely so frequently and heavily on their offensive line depth.