Cardinals notebook: Josh Jones making most of right guard opportunities
Aug 8, 2021, 7:07 AM
GLENDALE — The Arizona Cardinals’ starting offensive line looks nearly locked in following Saturday’s Red & White practice.
The right guard spot remains up for grabs, and with injuries sidelining offseason addition Brian Winters and Justin Murray, the team has gotten an extended look at Josh Jones at the position.
And from the sound of it, he’s answering the call.
“He’s really doing a nice job in there,” run game coordinator and offensive line coach Sean Kugler said Saturday. “That was the plan all along to give him opportunity reps at guard and tackle, but he’s been exclusively at guard and that’s probably how it will be for the first preseason game.
“But I’ve been very pleased with him, he’s made a lot of progress not only on the field but off the field. He’s really made a good leap from Year 1 to year 2. Kid’s got a bright future and he fits right in with that group so there’s still gonna be battles at that spot and I got three really competitive guys battling for it and that only makes your offensive line stronger.”
The second-year pro appeared in 13 games last season as a rookie and originally played left tackle during his college days at Houston.
The switch from tackle to guard is easier said than done.
“I got so much respect for Josh coming in … watching him not even bat an eyelash, think about, and go out there and work on his set and work it every day and try hard it’s impressive to watch him,” left tackle D.J. Humphries said Friday. “I like Josh’s future. I think he’s gonna be really good for us.”
It’s evident Jones has made the most of his opportunity, regularly getting first-team reps throughout training camp.
Jones may be earning high praise early on from his coaches and peers, but when talking most improved lineman, Kugler believes that honor belongs to Josh Miles.
It was just a matter of time says the coach.
“I really thought when we took him three years ago it was probably gonna take about three years,” Kugler said. “I really felt Year 3 you would start to see the dividends of him paying off. He’s an outstanding athlete, he’s long, he can bend and he plays with an edge.
“It was just he didn’t have the football background of some of these other guys coming from big programs. It’s been a developmental process for him but he’s ready to step on the field here pretty soon been very proud of him.”
While Miles figures to slot behind Humphries at the left tackle spot this season, Max Garcia has been moved from guard to backing up Rodney Hudson at center.
Garcia, in his seventh NFL season, has played exclusively at center throughout training camp and has more than gained Kugler’s trust that he can handle what the job entails.
“Max Garcia’s done an outstanding job, a very unselfish player,” Kugler said. “He’s our backup center now and really has done an outstanding job all camp. He brings a lot of physicality to that position. He’s 315 [pounds], he’s strong and he don’t get pushed back.”
Garcia played in 14 games for the Cardinals last season, up from seven the year prior.
Prater takes ‘aim small, miss small’ approach with skinny uprights
The Cardinals have had not one but two field goal posts for kicker Matt Prater to aim at throughout training camp.
While you might say that’s normal for a football field, this circumstance is anything but.
Matt Prater using not one but two uprights. pic.twitter.com/quJIUihDSy
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) August 3, 2021
Not only is the kicker using the two sets of uprights on the same side of the field, one of the field goals is more than half the size of the other. And it’s for good reason.
K Matt Prater on using the skinny uprights: pic.twitter.com/r3vm98XVM7
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) August 7, 2021
“I like kicking on those because going into the week I try only looking at those,” Prater said. “It’s kinda like the old saying, ‘Aim small, miss small’ type thing, so I like practicing on those so when I look at those all week, go to the stadium Sunday and they look huge.”
The goalposts sit at nine feet wide, less than half the size of typical uprights (18 feet, six inches).
It may take some getting used to, but whatever works for Prater, he was a perfect 5-for-5 on Saturday, works for the Cardinals.
More from Kliff regarding the skinny uprights Matt Prater is using in training camp: pic.twitter.com/JYZ19L2YfG
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) August 3, 2021
“Our equipment staff did a great job of putting that together,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Tuesday. “I like the idea of it, makes sense to me.”