Through the first two weeks of the NFL season, Paris Johnson has weathered the early onslaught of strong pass rushing units in the NFC East. This week only gets more difficult test as he will be charged with blocking Micah Parsons, the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year.
Parsons wreaked havoc against his first two opponents with three sacks, a forced fumble, and four tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He has been among the hottest names in the NFL since entering in 2021 and many eyes will be tuning in to watch him play. However, with a strong showing Paris Johnson can steal the spotlight and make himself the storyline.
Ever since he was drafted with the sixth overall pick in the 2023 draft, the expectations for Paris Johnson have been high. Cardinals fans are hoping that he can establish himself as the franchise tackle that has eluded them for years.
Not since Levi Brown has the team drafted a tackle with such a high pick. Fortunately, early returns suggest that Johnson will have a more successful NFL career than Brown did. Johnson has been a stalwart so far, allowing two total pressures while committing only a single penalty. He was thrown into the deep end in Week 1 and more than held his own against Montez Sweat. Then he turned around and did it again against the highly touted draft prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux.
If there is one individual matchup where it is worth watching every snap, it is when Micah Parsons is lined up against Paris Johnson
Micah Parsons is statistically the best pass rusher in the NFL right now, winning a league leading 36% of his pass rush attempts according to ESPN analytics. How Paris Johnson manages him, and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys pass rush, will be the best measuring stick all season to see where he is right now in his development and how much further he needs to go to compete with the best of the best. If Paris Johnson can perform in week three like he has in the first two weeks of the season, then Cardinals fans should be even more confident that the team found their own Trent Williams.
Paris Johnson’s performance this week is important for another reason. Due to the nature of Johnson being the first player to be drafted since the Cardinals reset their roster he has, in a sense, become the face of the Cardinals rebuild.
His rookie season and overall career will be an early referendum on the Monti Ossenfort era. This regime has to show they can develop talent better than the previous general manager Steve Keim and the success of Johnson can quickly quell those concerns. Paris Johnson represents the future of the Cardinals. If he can prove himself against the best defensive player in the NFL then it is a great sign not just for him, but for the overall health of the Cardinals rebuild.