Cardinals roster questions, wild cards: Where does OL Paris Johnson fit best?
Jul 17, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: Jul 19, 2023, 10:08 am
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
The Arizona Cardinals look a whole lot different than they did this time a year ago.
And with a reset in culture, coaching staff and front office comes a reset in the roster.
Each position group has undergone change this offseason, from quarterback to special teams specialists.
There’s still plenty of time for personnel tweaks between now and training camp next month. But until then, let’s take a deeper dive into how the Cardinals’ roster is currently constructed.
It’s time to wrap up the offense with a look at the trenches.
The Arizona Cardinals’ biggest roster questions: OL
1. Where does Paris Johnson Jr. fit best?
Emphasis on best.
All signs point to Johnson being among the starting five come Week 1. Where he will line up, though, is up for debate.
Having played both as a tackle and guard in college, Johnson brings with him the ability to work out of one of two positions of need along the line for the Cardinals.
So far this offseason, most of his work has come from the outside. That’s not to say a decision has been made, but from the early returns, Johnson is handling everything the team is throwing at him.
That being said, it wouldn’t be surprising if Johnson took snaps at guard during training camp. Much like what Arizona is doing with wide receiver Michael Wilson, who was focused on learning the X in OTAs and minicamps, the Cardinals are going one position at a time when it comes to their versatile athletes.
If Johnson stays at tackle, there’s a gluttony of depth at the position, with returning starter Kelvin Beachum moved to a backup role and Josh Jones and Elijah Wilkinson two other options.
If Johnson moves over to guard, though, both sides of the line would appear much more intact. Humphries and Johnson would command the left side, while guard Will Hernandez and Beachum look after the right side.
Either way, Johnson just wants the chance to make an impact right out the gate.
2. Who takes over at center?
The center spot is an intriguing one for the Cardinals.
Thanks to OTAs and minicamp, it appears the competition for the job lies between Hjalte Froholdt, Lecitus Smith and Jon Gaines II.
Of the three, Froholdt has remained in the driver’s seat to secure the role.
Despite being among the many new faces to join the franchise this season, the 6-foot-5, 310-pound lineman quickly became a name brought up regularly by both coaches and players this offseason.
Froholdt also had a pretty good lay-of-the-land before putting pen to paper, having set up home base in Arizona two years ago.
He also has some familiarity with offensive coordinator Drew Petzing from their days in Cleveland (2021-22) and has a good idea on what the assistant coach wants the offense to look like.
At this point, it really is his job to lose.
But with injuries a constant in the trenches, it’s never a bad thing to have multiple options waiting in the wing.
The Wild Card
Gaines quickly rose from being an added depth piece to potential starting center not long after his fourth-round selection by the Cardinals this past April.
Much like Johnson, Gaines has gotten glowing reviews from his teammates and coaches, especially when speaking on the lineman’s football intelligence.
And if his role as a center doesn’t pan out, Gaines still has a shot at still cracking the starting lineup as a left guard, something he played in college, or at the very least serving as a reliable depth piece.