When Josh Jones was taken in the third round of the 2020 draft, the Cardinals hoped they had stolen a top offensive lineman.
He was a left tackle by trade and the Cardinals had their long-term left tackle in D.J. Humphries, but eventually, Jones could develop into a right tackle. Or maybe a guard. Any way to get the best offensive linemen on the field.
Three years into his career, Jones is getting starting work at left tackle. It took a Humphries back injury that ended the veteran's season, but what the Cardinals have found is that Jones indeed can hold his own at the spot where he had long played.
"Being back at left tackle, I just feel comfortable," Jones said. "I feel like I'm playing like that, I'm playing more comfortable, everything is slowing down for me being back over there. I feel like I can be more aggressive over there.
"It feels like home over there."
That works well for this five-game stretch run to complete the 2022 season. The Cardinals offensive line has been ravaged by injury, so any depth help Jones can give is priceless at this point. But eventually, Humphries – who just signed a contract extension in training camp – will be back, presumably to play the left side.
Kelvin Beachum is a free-agent-to-be, so there is a chance the Cardinals decide to move Jones in there. But Beachum has been such a steadying influence on and off the field the team may want him back.
So how would Jones feel about moving back to the right side, where last season he spot-started for Beachum and where he tried to start at guard (to results that convinced the Cardinals Jones needed to play tackle)?
"I'm not sure," Jones acknowledged. "We're going to cross that bridge when we come to that. Yeah. We'll worry about that later."
Coach Kliff Kingsbury said Jones has "held his own" since moving into the lineup. There has been no dramatic drop after Humphries went out.
"I know at times he's been frustrated because we have had Beach and D.J. playing at a high level but he stepped in and played well." Kingsbury said. "That's encouraging for us moving forward, and being able to play right, left and be that swing guy is a huge bonus for us."
Predictions – at least publicly – weren't going to come from Jones, understandably. The focus is on the next five games, he said, and that will be at left tackle.
He isn't about to dismiss chances to play. That's one of the reasons he attacked his chance to start at guard last year, a move he said took some getting used to. But then-offensive line coach Sean Kugler wanted to get his top five linemen on the field, and Jones qualified.
"Being a younger guy, that's what I wanted to do," Jones said.
Jones will move into the final year of his contract in 2023, while Humphries moves into his extension years. Seeing how it plays out both with the team and personally is something Jones waits to see. Playing left tackle or right tackle in the NFL isn't just different on the field, it tends to be different in the pay scale.
It sure seems that Jones is aware of such things when asked what it's like as a starting left tackle in the pros.
"I don't know," Jones said. "I haven't seen all the perks yet."
PRACTICE SQUAD MOVES AND INJURY UPDATES
The Cardinals re-signed defensive lineman Michael Dogbe and linebacker Blake Lynch to the practice squad on Tuesday. ...
Kingsbury said he was optimistic wide receiver Greg Dortch (thumb) had a chance at playing Monday against the Patriots. Cornerback Byron Murphy (back) is day-to-day. Kingsbury said he still is hopeful guard Will Hernandez (pec) will come off IR, but Hernandez has to miss at least one more game before being eligible to return.
Images from the Youth Football Camp hosted by the Arizona Cardinals and State Farm at Mountain Pointe High School