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Cardinals’ plan: Move forward without David Johnson

Arizona Cardinals running back Kerwynn Williams (33) reacts with Evan Boehm (70) after scoring a 3-yard touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second half of an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Remove Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers from the equation and their teams are going to be less productive. Same with Ezekiel Elliott or Antonio Brown.

Those players command the utmost attention from opposing defenses.

David Johnson would fit in that category, as well. So, it would stand to reason that the Arizona Cardinals offense will change, at least somewhat, with Johnson sidelined for the next two-to-three months after dislocating his wrist at Detroit.

“No. Not one iota,” head coach Bruce Arians said this week.

Wait, really? The Cardinals just lost an All-Pro running back who led the NFL and set single-season franchise records with 20 touchdowns and 2,118 scrimmage yards in 2016.

“It changes drastically,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “You lose, who I think, is one of the best football players in this league. Things are obviously going to change.”

Now that makes more sense.

“But, in saying that, we’re not going to sulk,” Palmer continued. “We got right back to work (Wednesday) and ‘Dre (Andre Ellington) stepped in, Kerwynn (Williams) stepped in. Chris Johnson, getting him back, is huge for us. Yes, things change when you lose D.J. (Humphries) and you love David like that. Things change. The offense doesn’t change, but obviously when you take away the touches and the effect that those guys have on the game, things change.”

OK, so the structure of the offense won’t change, just the pieces within the offense; and because of that, there may be certain packages, certain play calls that play to the strengths of a Williams, Ellington or Chris Johnson given their different skill sets.

That’s fair.

Still, there’s something to be said for losing a player who accounted for nearly 40 percent of the team’s touchdowns, 72 percent of their rushing touchdowns and 20 percent of their receiving yards a season ago.

“There’s been too much talk about any one particular person,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said Thursday. “This is a team, and we have to go out there and execute better as a team.”

Added offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, “From Day 1, the standard is the standard. We all know B.A. is not going to change the offense. We do what we do. We just got to be ready to play no matter who’s out there. We won a lot of games before David got here. We’re going to continue to win games without David being out there. David is one man. One man doesn’t make a team. It’s got to be a group effort. It’s got to be a team effort.

“I don’t care who runs it. I just want four yards or more. If (Palmer) throws it, catch it. I don’t care who gets the yardage, who gets the glory, I just want to win.”

Losing Johnson is big, no one will debate that, but the season continues.

Despite the Week 1 setback, the Cardinals have 15 games remaining on their schedule. Everything they set out to accomplish in 2017 remains intact; even though the offensive personnel is not.

“You can’t get in a position where you feel like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to do more,’ or make more or make up for the lack of playmaking and the lack of touches that (Johnson) gets,” Palmer said. “We don’t need Chris to try to play like David. We’ve got to each play within ourselves and play within the system. You can’t sit around and sulk. You can’t feel like you’ve got to do anything superhuman. You just can’t, all of a sudden, change what you’re doing and change the way you go about your reads. You’ve just got to continue to play.”

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