It will be crowded at tackle whenever it is that the Cardinals and the NFL begin training camps, but competition only makes players better. Those battles will be ramped up even more after Josh Jones was selected Friday night in the third round of the draft.
It has been well-documented throughout the offseason after left tackle D.J. Humphries and right tackles Marcus Gilbert and Justin Murray were all re-signed. Humphries inked a three-year deal, while Gilbert and Murray are on one-year contracts although the Cardinals would still have the ability to control Murray, who would become a restricted free agent in 2021.
While acknowledging at the Combine that he needs work on his technique and that “I still have a long ways to go,” Jones said Friday night he is confident it won’t take long to get comfortable at right tackle, although that could be an issue this year thanks to the absence of on-field offseason work.
Asked how much time it would take, Jones said, “I’d say right away. I feel like I’m ready to play at that level against a lot of great guys. I feel like I’m definitely one of the play-ready tackles in the league right now in this draft. The Cardinals got a good one. I’m coming there ready to work. Try to get in the playbook as much as I can and learn the plays as quick as I can and understand the offense, so it can flow, so I can play fast and be able to play well.”
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury tapped the brakes somewhat although he was pleased to know Jones felt he would be able to play quickly.
He said, “You want him to have confidence and obviously you want him to believe he can come in and play right away. It'll be a jump. We know that but yeah, having Marcus healthy, which we're all hopeful he will be, having Justin back who we thought developed tremendously over the course of the season. Obviously, D.J. played the best football in his career. And then, you know, we like Josh Miles.
“We like how he came along. Last year, his development, very athletic, so to not have to rush them into a spot I think is going to be helpful for Josh Jones long term. And like I said, we're just thrilled to have the opportunity for him to be part of our organization and I know he's ready to get to work.”
Jones also is unfazed by dealing with the tempo of Kingsbury’s offense because he had experience with it at Houston where he said, “I'm used to going fast and moving fast and picking up things at a quick speed.”
Kingsbury said, “That's how he's played in his entire career and played at a high level. You look at the pass protection stats; I think he gave up two pressures all year which is incredible in the system he played in and you know, the pulling, the get out in space, the different things we do really play to his strong suits. And just familiarity with a very similar system plan and Dana Holgorsen’s offense, which we all kind of derived from the same place. I definitely think there'll be a comfort level there for him that that'll allow him to hopefully play at a high level sooner than later.”
General manager Steve Keim is confident Jones will adapt after playing left tackle at Houston.
“We projected him as a guy who could play both sides,” Keim said. “So whether it's right or left, he's a player with enough athletic tools to play on the left side, yet has some of the traits you look for in a right tackle as well. So to me, he's got some versatility and will be able to work early on in his career on both sides for us, and we’ll see where he's at.”