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Paris Johnson Jr. Wants To Impact Roster Like Former Teammate

In multiple ways, left tackle hoping to fill role previously held by Humphries

Paris Johnson Jr. and D.J. Humphries share a moment before a home game in 2023.
Paris Johnson Jr. and D.J. Humphries share a moment before a home game in 2023.

Paris Johnson Jr. looked down at his phone at one point earlier this offseason and saw a text message that would alter his future.

"Hey, could you play left?" the text read.

It wasn't a surprise. But it brought with it a taste of bittersweet, the left side vacant after former teammate D.J. Humphries was released following an ACL injury.

Humphries and Johnson had a special relationship. After Johnson came into the league last season as a rookie, Humphries was the veteran that took the eager rookie under his wing.

When the Cardinals drafted Johnson, it was assumed he'd be the left tackle of the future. Now he'll take that role, even if the torch wasn't passed in the way he envisioned.

"You wish the transition was like one of those fairy-tale, 'It's your time now, son,'" Johnson said. "But that's the way it goes."

It was a choice general manager Monti Ossenfort described as “brutal.”

The Cardinals aren't just replacing a left tackle -- free-agent Jonah Williams will slide into the right side, where Johnson played every offensive snap last season -- but also a leader.

Johnson was the headline player in the inaugural rookie class of the Gannon-Ossenfort regime in the Valley as the team's first-round pick. It was the start of revamping the culture within the halls in Tempe. Humphries was one of the leaders in the locker room and ultimate tone-setter on game days. Johnson would watch as his bookend partner would hype up the entire team.

It's a challenge Johnson is hoping to replicate, but with a twist that'd make his predecessor proud.

"What I want to do for the room is bring that Hump energy that he brought," Johnson said. "He brought a lot of energy and excitement and happiness in the room with just his natural energy to where I only had to focus on me.

"We would hype each other up and dudes are like, 'Dude, it's about to be a walkthrough,' but we're lit. I want to bring that energy and bring more guys to do that."

Playing well will still be the first priority, of course. Tips from Humphries -- with whom Johnson has remained close, including recently buying a house in Humphries' neighborhood -- have helped the second-year tackle switch sides.

"In my first day of practice (last season), my feet felt a little off and I don't feel as balanced in my stance, and he showed me the smallest technique to do with my feet that I still do, even at left tackle," Johnson said. "He's one of my biggest supporters, so obviously he's excited about the opportunity for me."

Coach Jonathan Gannon announced last week that Johnson would be protecting quarterback Kyler Murray's blind side. Johnson has been prepared for the switch since has experience at both positions, practicing both since last season ended.

Gannon also has the right to overrule the decision and send Johnson back to the right side, although two weeks into Phase Three of OTAs, Gannon's found no reason to budge.

"He looked comfortable since we've been on the grass playing left," Gannon said. "There will be some things that he has to adjust and adapt to and improve on.

"The stance being a little different and what foot is his post foot and the technique of how he runs off the ball when contact is happening is going to be a little bit different now, but he handled it well."

Humphries would be proud.

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