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Arians: David Johnson as focal point will help Cardinals WRs

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown (12) celebrates his touchdown with tight end Jermaine Gresham (84) during the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
LISTEN: Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals head coach

Bruce Arians still makes the offensive play calls and with his no risk-it, no biscuit reputation of taking shots, he wants to get the ball down the field.

One way he can do that is through the running game, and specifically with David Johnson.

“He’s the focal point now,” Arians said about Johnson while joining Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station Tuesday. “When you’re the focal point, you don’t surprise anybody. I think it’s going to lead more to one-on-ones for our receivers because I think we’ll get more eight boxes and that’s beautiful, we love that.

“Him as a receiver, just continue to refine the tree out of the backfield and out wide because that’s what makes him so dynamic and different.”

Two of the guys that the Cardinals would like to get more one-on-one opportunities for are “Smoke” and “Fire” — John Brown and J.J. Nelson.

The two, as their nicknames indicate, have speed. At the combine, Brown ran a 4.34 40-yard dash, with Nelson besting him with a speedy 4.28.

A sickle-cell trait and cyst derailed Brown’s 2016 campaign. Now feeling more like himself, Brown looks to return to his 2015 form in which he hauled in 65 receptions for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns.

Another wideout who dealt with medical issues last season was Jaron Brown, who missed the final nine games of the season with a torn ACL. Although Brown is expected to make the roster, he will need to increase his production, having contributed just 55 receptions, 700 yards and five touchdowns in four seasons.

Those three receivers will most likely take larger roles in the passing game with the departure of Michael Floyd, joining Larry Fitzgerald as the most likely top four wideouts.

Arians talks about his cancer

In 2016, Bruce Arians had multiple health scares that included trips to the hospital for stomach pain in August and chest pains in November.

His book, “The Quarterback Whisperer,” furthered the concern around Arians’ health after he revealed he was treated for cancer following the season.

“I had the cancer in December and we did the operation,” Arians said. “I had green cell carcinoma. I found out in December, did the operation in February, did not have to do any chemo or radiation — he got it all and saved my kidneys.”

Fixing the tackling

While on with Doug and Wolf, Arians admitted he felt the Cardinals didn’t respect Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo when they faced him in a Week 1 loss.

Coming into that game with a lot of “swagger,” Arians said missed tackles and errors put them behind and left the game up to the special teams unit (fans know how that went).

Going into this season, the two-time coach of the year will work to fix the Cardinals’ tackling problems in training camp.

“We’ll be tackling each other a little more,” Arians said. “It’s a fine line of who’s getting tackled and who’s doing the tackling, but we’ve got to be able to tackle better in September then we did last September.”

All good at corner?

The corner opposite Patrick Peterson fluctuated last season. Rookie Brandon Williams got the start in Weeks 1 and 2, but poor play saw him benched in favor of Marcus Cooper. Justin Bethel got some playing time down the stretch as well.

Now with Cooper in Chicago, it will be between Williams and Bethel for the other starting corner job. Based off of their play last year, there has been speculation that Arizona could add another corner, but Arians seems pleased with their progress.

“Don’t know if there is a ‘need, need,’ because Justin Bethel finally practiced for a spring and, knock on wood, if he practices in training camp like he did all of spring, we’ll be fine. And Brandon (Williams) is still coming on like we hope as a third-round pick last year, so those two guys, their improvement is critical.

“Keeping them on the field, their availability, is more critical.”

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