Paris Johnson Jr. has known Micah Parsons since high school, even though Johnson, who went to Ohio State, never had a chance to play against Parsons at Penn State.
The two have been exchanging light smack talk since then, Johnson Jr. said. Blocking Parsons in the NFL has been something Johnson Jr. has had circled on the calendar.
Sunday, it'll come to fruition when the Cardinals host the Cowboys, in a test not only of Johnson but an Arizona offense that made a leap forward last week -- but not enough to win.
"As a player, I feel like the players you respect the most, you play hardest against," Johnson Jr. said. "There's not a lot of guys that have a high motor and are very athletic and are as gifted as him."
Parsons has made his early case as best defensive player in the league. The Cowboys certainly have made the case of being the best defense, leading or tied for the lead in the NFL in most statistical categories -- although that was before losing Pro Bowl cornerback Trevon Diggs for the season due to an ACL tear.
"You can't name a better all-around team," Johnson Jr. said.
Parsons has the ability to rush the passer from both sides of the line, so Johnson Jr. and left tackle DJ Humphries will most certainly be busy on Sunday afternoon. Coach Jonathan Gannon has familiarity with the Cowboys from his time in Philadelphia, and it's a given that the Cardinals have to mitigate Parsons, who Gannon called "one of the elite players in the world."
But they also need to produce an offensive scheme that can continue the growth Gannon saw in the first two games.
"I think some of the negatives hurt us (in the first two games)," Gannon said. "We cleaned some of them up from Week 1 to Week 2. But I think staying out of some third and longs, so that goes to the operation on first and second down too."
Offensive coordinator Drew Petzing believes that this is just the beginning for quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who was markedly better in the loss to the Giants last weekend.
"I think a big part of it was his confidence," Petzing said. "I think you could feel that in the way he was playing the game and the way he was making decisions."
Added Dobbs, "we have a really good defense coming into town this weekend, and so we're going to have to be on our P's and Q's and play our A-game just like we have to do every single week. We're prepping for that, but the comfort level is growing very quickly and that's good to see."
Petzing noted that execution and play calling were two elements he was taking accountability for in the Cardinals early two losses.
"We need to lock in and feel confident that we can execute in critical situations," Petzing said. "Heightened awareness, not anxiety. As you get into critical situations, yes, you need to be more aware and need to be more locked in. But it shouldn't come with anxiousness or anxiety.
"I think we have to collectively, coaches included, just kind of settle down, understand that situations are going to arise and make sure we're prepared to handle them a little better than we did on Sunday."
Images of the Cardinals practicing at the Dignity Health Sports Complex before the Week 3 regular season matchup against the Dallas Cowboys