Jonathan Gannon, Cardinals more than ready to mold 2023 draft class

May 2, 2023, 7:01 PM

Arizona Cardinals HC Jonathan Gannon...

Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon touched on his main pillars of the foundation he wanted to set during his introductory press conference this offseason.

His keys to success? Adaptability, smarts, violence and explosion. In short, elite football character.

And after undergoing his first NFL Draft in his new role, Gannon feels confident early on that every one of the nine prospects the Cardinals came away with carry those specific traits.

“I think the thing that stands out that I’m most pleased with is the character of the guys,” Gannon said Tuesday. “That was important to me and (general manager) Monti Ossenfort, our entire staff.

“We know that high-character guys typically hit their ceiling and help you win games as a team.”

For defensive coordinator Nick Rallis, two names jump off the page right away in edge BJ Ojulari and cornerback Garrett Williams.

Ojulari heads to Arizona after sporting the illustrious No. 18 jersey at LSU, given to the Tiger that best exemplifies the program.

It’s an honor both the linebacker and Cardinals don’t take for granted.

Williams, meanwhile, brings an added level of toughness and violence that can really impact a secondary in Rallis’ eyes.

“We got to meet with those guys at the (NFL Draft Combine) and it was apparent just in those brief meetings — you’re almost speed dating — and you finish those interviews and you’re like, ‘Woah,” he said Tuesday.

“With Garrett and BJ, you’re like, ‘Wow.’ Those guys, you talk about football character and what does that mean? They’re willing to do whatever it takes to hit their ceiling. Just within 20 minutes, their love of the game comes out in those guys.”

On the other side of the ball, offensive coordinator Drew Petzing is seeing a relationship between quarterback Kyler Murray and No. 6 overall pick and offensive lineman Paris Johnson already taking shape in less than a week’s time.

It’s definitely a step in the right direction and one that must extend beyond just the pair.

“You always want that bond,” Petzing said Tuesday. “I think guys that feel close to each other in terms of shared common goals, guys that have a respect for each other and have that relationship tend to play harder for each other. It’s great to see that and it’s certainly just the beginning of it.

“And it’s not just going to be between the two of them. It’s got to be between everybody on that field and in that meeting room. I think it’s a good start and certainly got a long way to go.”

Every member of Arizona’s 2023 draft class deserves to recognize where they’ve come from and what they just accomplished. Getting drafted to the National Football League is no easy feat.

There’s time to celebrate, but there’s also time to work.

And when the newcomers embark on the desert for rookie minicamp in a little more than a week, the group’s focus should be solely on the latter.

“These guys have put in a lot of work to get to this point that they’re in of getting that phone call and the sacrifice that goes into since they were kids,” Gannon said.

“But now, what I’ll talk to them about is it really doesn’t matter how you got into the building, what matters is what you do from here. … It’s a ticking clock and coaches are no different. At some point, this organization is going to say, ‘We value you’ or ‘we don’t.’ … Your clock starts over, you start from ground zero.”

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