Arizona Cardinals could have two rookie starters on this year's offensive line

UCLA v Oregon
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Paris Johnson Jr. and Jon Gaines II could be vying for starting roles when the Arizona Cardinals assemble for training camp this summer.

When the first night of the 2023 NFL Draft came to a close back in April, the Arizona Cardinals walked away with the prospect they had coveted most. Paris Johnson Jr., a Consensus All-American in 2022, was acquired with the sixth-overall selection. The Cards have high hopes for the offensive lineman, and there's even talk that Johnson could start as a first-year player.

At 6 foot 6, 310 pounds, the talented Johnson is a natural left tackle. For the time being, veteran D.J. Humphries is manning that all-important position. Is it at all possible that the 21-year-old Johnson could steal that job away from the 29-year-old Humphries?

That scenario seems unlikely, given the fact that Humphries will count $12.5 million against Arizona's salary cap in '23. Unless he's injured, traded or released, it's a safe bet that the club's 2015 opening-round choice will be protecting quarterback Kyler Murray's blindside next fall. That doesn't mean, however, that Johnson can't start at another post on the Redbirds offensive line.

Well-respected website already has Johnson penciled in as the Cardinals starter at left guard. Back in 2021, the Cincinnati native played the entire year at right guard for Ohio State University. With that type of experience on his collegiate resume, Johnson could conceivably bide his time on the inside for "Big Red" until the opportunity to take over for Humphries presents itself.

Rookie Jon Gaines II has a very good chance of anchoring the Arizona Cardinals offensive line this coming season

With the 122nd-overall pick of this past April's draft, the Cards nabbed a 6 foot 4, 300 pounder out of UCLA. Jon Gaines II, a Wisconsin native, could also challenge for a starting gig this year. This particular rookie could use his versatility to overtake a free-agent addition that could best be described as unheralded.

Back in March, Arizona brought in Hjalte Froholdt to be the team's first-string center. New offensive coordinator Drew Petzing is aware of the 26-year-old from the two campaigns (2021-22) they spent together with the Cleveland Browns. Even with that familiarity, there's no guarantee that Froholdt will anchor the Cardinals blocking unit this coming season.

Actually, the youthful Gaines has a very strong chance of unseating the 6 foot 5, 310 pound Froholdt. Over the course of the five years he spent with the Bruins, the 24-year-old Gaines started games at tackle, guard and center. Froholdt, with just six professional starts under his belt, could have a tough time fighting off the challenge of the intriguing blocker.

The upcoming campaign is basically a throwaway for the Cards organization. It's a fantastic time for head coach Jonathan Gannon and his staff to take a long look at some of the roster's fresh faces. Talented additions like Johnson and Gaines could ultimately earn more than just a look.

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