Arizona Cardinals are rightfully not rushing a pair of intriguing rookies in 2023

When the Arizona Cardinals had a pair of rookies recovering from knee injuries in early 2023, they must have decided to take the right path with them in foresight.
Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks
Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks / Jane Gershovich/GettyImages

The Arizona Cardinals, so far, have seen solid returns from their rookie class. Sixth overall pick Paris Johnson has played in 533 total snaps, showing off some immense durability. Late-round picks Kei’Trel Clark and Dante Stills have predictably not been outstanding, but have fared better than most drafted so late, especially the latter.

Michael Wilson, at worst, looks like a sound WR2, if not more. We will find out what to make on Jon Gaines II next year since he unfortunately sustained a season-ending injury in camp. Owen Pappoe is another who we may need to wait another minute with given his lack of playing time, but there are two players drafted in the early-to-mid rounds the Cards had to take their time with. 

BJ Ojulari suffered an offseason setback that put him behind the eight-ball in camp, and during most of the season’s first half. While he hasn’t been lights-out, Ojulari has been seeing more playing time each week, and played in a season-high 25 snaps (38 percent) this past week as part of the pass rush rotation. 

Arizona Cardinals right to ease a pair of rookies into the lineup

Ojulari has looked good as a pass rusher, despite his limited sample size, recording his first career sack this past week. So far in 2023, he has seven quarterback pressures in just 109 total snaps on defense, which is a decent mark. 

Garrett Williams made his debut a week-and-a-half ago against the Seattle Seahawks and snagged an interception. He saw time in just 26 snaps, or 43 percent of them, in that game, but that number augmented to 36 (55 percent) in Week 8 vs. the Baltimore Ravens. Through a pair of contests, Williams has snagged a solid 64.9 grade, per PFF, and has allowed just 4.7 yards per reception, plus a 16.7 passer rating. 

Overall, it was good to see the Arizona Cardinals ease Ojulari and Williams into the lineup instead of rushing them in since their respective returns. Ojulari has seen significantly less time because of the influx of pass rushers, but has seen his snap numbers jump from 17 percent in Week 1 to 38 in Week 8. 

Williams has seen larger snap counts since the Cards are rather thin at the position. But he’s more than held his own, and you can expect to see the number of snaps increase as the halfway point of the season nears. 


(Statistics and grades provided by PFF [subscription], snap counts provided by Football Guys)