The Cardinals don’t know who their right guard is quite yet. They signed veteran Brian Winters, but he’s been dinged up. So too has Justin Murray. So the three-headed battle for the starting job has been mostly one – second-year man Josh Jones, who was drafted after playing left tackle all his life.
The Cards had already planned to crosstrain Jones anyway. He was likely going to be a reserve, and he needed to play both. But offensive line coach Sean Kugler likes what Jones has done at guard with this opportunity, and said it’s where he is going to be exclusively, at least through the first preseason game.
He’s really made a good leap from year one to year two,” Kugler said, emphasizing it has been both on and off the field. “The kid has got a great future.”
As the Cardinals played the Red-White Practice Saturday, the line play was understandably in the spotlight. The defensive line is a M*A*S*H unit. J.J. Watt, Jordan Phillips, Zach Allen, Corey Peters and Xavier Williams were all on the sideline. Peters is just ramping up so that’s no surprise. But Williams had a boot on his right foot, and now Allen has missed a few practices. It’s no wonder they had Josh Mauro in for a tryout.
— Kugler’s discussion post-practice was intriguing not just for the Jones info. Not that it is a huge surprise, but he said Max Garcia is locked into the backup center role, which became plain after the team released Lamont Gaillard. But it was the stuff on Josh Miles that caught my attention – and perhaps a reason why the Cards are cool with Jones at guard.
“I think Josh Miles is our most improved lineman,” Kugler said of the third-year tackle. “He just didn’t have the football background. He’s ready to step on the field pretty soon.”
— Besides the aforementioned defensive linemen, among those not practicing Saturday were receivers A.J. Green and Rondale Moore and safety Chris Banjo. It will be interesting to see who exactly will be available to play in the preseason opener Friday against the Cowboys.
— Tight end Maxx Williams made a great grab down the seam from a Kyler Murray pass and Murray overthrew him when he was open down the middle another time. I know people fret about tight end, but if Williams stays healthy – and I know, that’s an big if – I think he’s a solid starter for you there.
— Darqueze Dennard had a nice interception of Murray. Dennard has been under-the-radar as part of the cornerback group, but he has a relationship with Vance Joseph, and he has experience. Does he make a push? (How many cornerbacks do the Cardinals keep, anyway?)
— The offense was OK, but again, it felt Saturday like the defense took the overall win. Having so many key receivers down doesn’t help. (At one point, the second unit had a three-receiver set with 5-foot-9 Andy Isabella, 5-7 Greg Dortch and 5-9 JoJo Ward on the field.)
— Last word comes from D.J. Humphries, who, unlike Colt McCoy, said he did not get Kyler a present for Murray’s birthday. “I protected him today. He gets a year-round gift from me.”