Rookie and 2nd-year players making noise in Arizona Cardinals camp

As a young team, W’s and L’s may not be the Arizona Cardinals primary focus in 2023. Instead, identifying and developing young talent could take centerstage.
Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Cameron Thomas (97) gets his hand taped during minicamp at the
Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Cameron Thomas (97) gets his hand taped during minicamp at the / Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY

Young teams need young players to step up, and the Arizona Cardinals have quite a few youngsters looking good in the early goings of training camp. This will give them a closer look not only at more playing time, but potentially a full-time starting spot. 

Three first and second year players have risen above the others, and if they can continue their ascent throughout the preseason, they can all make an immediate impact in 2023. Which rookies and second-year players are standing out more than any other? Let’s meet them. 

3 first and second year Arizona Cardinals making a name for themselves

1 - Cameron Thomas, EDGE

We saw Cameron Thomas show some serious flashes as an EDGE rusher in 2022, and he’s picking up where he left off in camp. And what’s sensational is the fact that he’s winning battles using his strength and agility, giving him multiple tools to use when the games start to count. 

Far too often, EDGE rushers win either with their strength or their agility, so the fact Thomas can do both makes him a special player. If Thomas keeps this up, he will be one of the unquestioned starters for this Arizona Cardinals defense and you can even add him in as yet another puzzle piece that could be here long-term.

2 - Paris Johnson Jr., OL

Even someone as talented as Paris Johnson Jr. can be prone to struggling in camp thanks to the increased speed of the NFL. Rarely do you see players step right in and perform well consistently, but apart from a few inevitable hiccups, Johnson has been playing as advertised. 

Of course, he will face his first true tests in the preseason when he lines up against unfamiliar faces. But if his early returns in camp serve as an indication, we can expect Johnson to at least look serviceable in the early going, and that’s his floor.

3 - Michael Wilson, WR

Michael Wilson was one of three young players who caught my eye early in training camp, but when you’re a highly talented athlete practicing in just a helmet and shorts, you should be. That has since translated into training camp, where he has been catching virtually everything. 

When you look at Wilson’s collegiate production, it doesn’t jump out at you. But that’s because he spent a lot of time missing games with injuries. A healthy Michael Wilson is going to be a legit successor to DeAndre Hopkins, and perhaps an upgrade in time.


Source: Cardinals Camp Notes: Young Guys Shine in Pads by Donnie Druin, SI