Will Josh Jones have a shot to earn Cardinals’ starting RT role?

Apr 24, 2020, 9:54 PM | Updated: Apr 25, 2020, 11:07 am

In this still image from video provided by the NFL, Josh Jones, center, talks on the phone as he is...

In this still image from video provided by the NFL, Josh Jones, center, talks on the phone as he is selected by the Arizona Cardinals during the third round of the NFL football draft, Friday, April 24, 2020. (NFL via AP)

(NFL via AP)

Re-signing Marcus Gilbert and Justin Murray this offseason ensured the Arizona Cardinals would have viable right tackle options for 2020.

But had Arizona selected an offensive tackle in the first round, it could have created a curious three-way competition for a starting role. Gilbert is coming off a serious knee injury, and Murray projects more as depth despite holding up in 12 starts a year ago.

So what happens now that the Cardinals drafted a supposed first-round talent in the third round?

Houston product Josh Jones fell to Arizona’s No. 72 pick, and while he seemed confident about fighting to earn a starting role, that could be more of an uphill battle than he thinks.

“I say (I can start) right away, man,” Jones said. “I feel like I’m ready to play at that level against a lot of great guys. I definitely feel like I’m … one of the play-ready tackles right now in this draft.”

Asked if Jones could realistically fight with Gilbert and Murray to earn a starting role, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury steered clear of setting the bar too high.

“First off, you want him to have confidence, obviously,” Kingsbury said. “It’ll be a jump. We know that.

“To not have to rush him into a spot is going to be helpful, I think, for Josh Jones long-term.”

Neither Murray nor Gilbert are under contract after the 2020 season. Josh Miles made strides after being a seventh-round pick out of Morgan State last season, Kingsbury noted.

Arizona drafted Jones with the idea he can play either tackle spot, though Jones played exclusively on the left side at Houston.

“Whether it’s right or left, he’s a player with enough athletic tools to play on the left side but has some of the traits you look for in a right tackle as well,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said. “To me, he’s got some versatility. He’ll be able to work early on in his career on both sides for us and see where he’s at.”

The man who will lead the developmental effort, Arizona offensive line coach Sean Kugler, clicked with Jones at a sit-down meeting at the Senior Bowl.

“I think we really kicked it off there, I think we really made a connection,” Jones said, adding that Kugler, a former UTEP head coach, did recruit him along with Kingsbury.

The 6-foot-5, 319-pound tackle said he spent the pre-draft process working on his right tackle technique. Jones thinks he’d be comfortable there.

And he should have a head start fitting into Kingsbury’s offense. Jones operated in a spread Air Raid-influenced system under the Mike Leach-groomed Dana Holgorsen at Houston. Before that, he played in a super-high-speed offense led by then-head coach Kendal Briles.

Jones also has experience protecting mobile quarterbacks, including a Kyler Murray-light type in shifty 5-foot-11 signal-caller D’Eriq King.

“I don’t think (the Cardinals’ offense is) too far from Dana’s offense, how he’s supposed to run it. I don’t think it’s too far off at all,” Jones said.

That sets him up to challenge for a future role opposite Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries. While scouting reports have concerns over his technique, the Cardinals saw Jones play with consistency this year.

As Kingsbury said, the team only tallied Jones allowing two pressures during the entire 2019 college season.

Clemson's Isaiah Simmons reacts after stopping Alabama's Najee Harris during the first half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson) FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2020, file photo, North offensive tackle Josh Jones of Houston (70) plays during the second half of the Senior Bowl college football game in Mobile, Ala. Jones was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the third round of the NFL football draft Friday, April 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) Fourth round (114th overall)

Utah DT Leki Fotu
(Photo by Boyd Ivey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) Fourth round (131st overall)

LSU DL Rashard Lawrence
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip) Sixth round (202nd overall)
California ILB Evan Weaver
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin, left, avoids a tackle by Oregon State defensive back Jaydon Grant during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Corvallis, Ore., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

Arizona Cardinals

Budda Baker #3 of the Arizona Cardinals looks on during the second quarter against the Carolina Pan...

Wills Rice

ESPN’s Bowen: Best potential landing spots for Budda Baker, DeAndre Hopkins

ESPN's Matt Bowen gave the best potential landing spots for both wideout DeAndre Hopkins and Cardinals safety Budda Baker.

1 day ago

James Conner...

Tyler Drake

No complaints: Cardinals’ James Conner excited to ‘prove people wrong’ with new regime

While outside expectations are some of the lowest they have been in Cardinals history, RB James Conner isn't focused on the external noise.

1 day ago

Kyler Murray...

Arizona Sports

Simms: Cardinals’ Kyler Murray in ‘clock’s ticking’ tier of NFL quarterbacks

After going down with a season-ending knee injury, can Kyler Murray return to form and be one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL?

2 days ago

DeAndre Hopkins...

Tyler Drake

Gannon: WR DeAndre Hopkins’ release best thing for Cardinals

No matter how it all shook out, the Arizona Cardinals parting ways with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins this offseason was expected.

2 days ago

Kyzir White...

Tyler Drake

Kyzir White already running with role as Cardinals’ defensive general

Kyzir White's role at MIKE linebacker could slide Zaven Collins to the edge for the Arizona Cardinals defense.

3 days ago

Hollywood Brown...

Tyler Drake

Marquise Brown leads Cardinals WRs into life post-DeAndre Hopkins

There's no way around it, the Arizona Cardinals' wide receivers room took a shot Friday morning with the release of DeAndre Hopkins.

3 days ago

Will Josh Jones have a shot to earn Cardinals’ starting RT role?