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Despite Draft Drop, Josh Jones Lands In Good Spot

Third-round pick has some familiarity to begin NFL career

OT Josh Jones has experience in an offense similar to the one run by Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury
OT Josh Jones has experience in an offense similar to the one run by Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury.

It's been six days since Josh Jones surprisingly fell to the third round of the draft, and he's made it to the acceptance stage of the grieving process.

But there is a part of the Cardinals' rookie offensive tackle that may never let go of the slide.

"It's still inside me," Jones said. "I'm driven by it. That was a tough day for me."

While it's not easy to find solace in such a drastic draft drop – Jones was projected to go in the first or second round -- there is this: he may have landed in an ideal situation.

From a 10,000-foot view, Jones' college career looked like the picture of stability, but during his four-year run as the starting left tackle at Houston, he had three head coaches and four offensive line coaches.

Jones actually considered transferring to Oklahoma prior to his senior year to face better competition, but ultimately opted to finish his career under Dana Holgorsen.

That turned out to be especially fortuitous, because not only did Jones excel in Holgorsen's Air Raid offense, but now he will begin his professional career with Kliff Kingsbury, a coach cut from the same schematic cloth.

"After the draft I talked to my O-line coach (Brandon Jones, who coached under Kingsbury at Texas Tech), and he said our system is pretty much the same," Jones said. "Some of the same calls, some of the same runs and passes, so he was preparing me for that, letting me know it's kind of similar, and I shouldn't have too much of a learning curve. I know they're pretty tight, coming from under the same tree, so I was happy getting over here with coach Kliff."

The Cardinals rated Jones highly on their draft board, but because they traded away their second-round pick for wideout DeAndre Hopkins, the chances of drafting him seemed slim.

As Jones continued to drop on Friday, Kingsbury was so perplexed that he called Holgorsen, a longtime friend who got him into coaching, to see if there was anything he missed.

"We're calling saying, 'What's going on, did he kill somebody last night?" Kingsbury told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "'Is there something we don't know about? What's the issue?' They were kind of scratching their heads as well."

Jones is seen as a developmental prospect, and maybe other teams weren't prepared to take on that risk. However, Jones won't have to transition away from a spread offense under Kingsbury, and there should be ample time to sit and learn with veteran tackles D.J. Humphries and Marcus Gilbert projected to start in 2020, and Justin Murray a capable backup.

While Jones must now work with his fifth offensive line coach in as many years, there aren't many better than the Cardinals' Sean Kugler. Jones said the lack of coaching cohesion may have stunted his growth "a little bit" in college, but he also appreciated the various advice.

"I think me having four line coaches, I was able to take certain things that they taught me and fuse it into my game," Jones said. "I feel like that's kind of what made my game whole today."

Jones only allowed two pressures and one sack in nine games as a senior, per Pro Football Focus, as he settled in nicely under Brandon Jones. Kingsbury said that couldn't have been easy, because technique and fundamentals are taught differently from one coach to another.

"It appeared as if he had a consistent plan each and every snap this year," Kingsbury said. "He was locked in. There was no lack of focus, and it paid off. There was nobody that was getting around him the entire season, so you definitely saw big strides there on the technical side of things."

Jones has some challenges ahead. He must adjust to the speed of the NFL and learn to play right tackle. However, if he can use this stability to his advantage, the draft day uncertainty will one day become a distant memory.

"I'm just happy to get back into the same system I ran last year, where I had so much success, so I'm able to get out there and perform really well," Jones said.

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