HOUSTON — Josh Jones is convinced that the Arizona Cardinals are poised to make a quantum leap after a hot start last season didn’t trigger the lengthy NFL playoff run the team had envisioned.
The Cardinals, who got off to a 7-0 start under coach Kliff Kingsbury before finishing 11-7 and losing in the opening round of the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, have a lot of talent on their roster. Although the Cardinals will have to play without Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games due to a performance-enhancing drug policy suspension, they traded for wide receiver Hollywood Brown, and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt has made a full recovery from injuries that sidelined him last year.
Arizona Cardinals’ Josh Jones ‘super excited’ for 2022
“I’m super excited because we’ve got a great team coming back,” Jones told Pro Football Network. “We’ve got some great leaders in the building. We’ve got some great leaders in the building and we’ve got some guys who weren’t healthy last year who are back.
“I’m really excited. It’s a great group and they brought in a great draft class. The Super Bowl is in Arizona, and I’m pretty sure the Super Bowl champs the last two years were in the same city. So, we’re working on it right now.”
Murray is the catalyst for an offense built around his live arm and rare elusiveness and speed. The former top overall pick from Oklahoma and Heisman Trophy winner passed for 3,787 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions last season and rushed for 423 yards and five scores.
The Cardinals are in contract talks with Murray about a potential blockbuster extension and there is optimism, per league sources, that a deal will ultimately get worked out as the relationship between the Texas native and the team is back on terra firma after some extremely public discord earlier this offseason.
Cardinals’ Kyler Murray ‘so electric’
“Man, it’s great playing with him,” said Jones, a former third-round draft pick from the University of Houston who started a dozen games last season. “He’s one of those guys who every time he steps on the field he can be the best player. Not many guys can be the best player. He’s so electric in making amazing plays. We just want to be able to give him confidence back there so he can get back into his groove and we can go have a long season.”
Blocking for hard-nosed running back James Conner is something Jones thoroughly enjoys. Conner plays the game with a downhill running style. He has a proven nose for the end zone and rushed for 15 touchdowns last season.
James Conner an ‘angry runner’
“I love JC,” Jones said. “He’s an angry runner. He runs downhill. One thing about JC, he pushes you. He helps me understand where I need to go and how to get better. He’s one of those guys. I really appreciate him for that.”
Brown requested a trade from the Baltimore Ravens primarily because he wanted to play in a more free-wheeling offense and reunite with Murray, his former college teammate. Brown can help make up for the absence of Hopkins during the start of the season.
“Oh yeah, he’s going to tear that slot up,” Jones said. “We’ve got Rondale Moore. We’ve got some guys. Don’t sleep on the Cardinals. We’re going to have a good season.”
Jones started the first two games of the season before shifting to right tackle when Kelvin Beachum got hurt. He shifted back to right guard, but struggled with penalties, finishing the season with a dozen overall, and allowed four sacks.
Jones making progress, competing for starting job
“I thought Josh progressed, played a lot more at guard than he had throughout his career there in college,” Kingsbury said this offseason. “So he was getting familiar with that, which is good to have some swing capabilities and be able to play guard and tackle. He made strides the first two years and we need him to really step up.”
Jones is expected to compete with Beachum for a starting job and operate in a versatile role again. His best snaps have come at tackle where he appears much more comfortable than as an interior offensive lineman.
“Just being more consistent, I took a huge jump in my game,” Jones said. “And my play for this year, I want to be more consistent. I showed a lot of good things last year and I just want to do it in and out every single play.”