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RB David Johnson ‘excited’ about fullback use in Cardinals offense

Arizona Cardinals' David Johnson (31) runs during an organized team activity at the NFL football team's training facility, Tuesday, May 15, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

TEMPE, Ariz. – Standing at his locker following the first day of organized team activities, Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson was asked how he felt about the team’s newest feature, one not seen in the previous five seasons: The fullback.

“It’s nice to always have more blockers in the run game,” he said, smiling. “I’m excited.”

And why wouldn’t Johnson be. The idea of having another body move would-be tacklers out of the way and help open up running lanes should make any running back happy.

“I think it’s always a plus when you got somebody to be able to take the brunt of the punishment or the blow first,” head coach Steve Wilks said. “I think (Johnson) is going to benefit.”

Wilks’ predecessor, Bruce Arians, did not believe in the fullback position.

When Arians was hired in 2013 one of the first personnel moves the Cardinals made was trading the one fullback on the roster, Anthony Sherman, to Kansas City for cornerback Javier Arenas.

The fullback wasn’t seen again in Tempe until the recent signings of Derrick Coleman and Austin Ramesh.

“I think it makes my job a little bit easier,” Johnson said. “Having those guys being able to pick up linebackers or d-ends or anybody on the defensive side makes my read a little bit easier.”

The adjustment with a fullback sharing the backfield will be minimal, according to Johnson, who did run behind a fullback in college.

“Last year, we didn’t have a designated fullback but our tight ends did the job,” he said. “This time we’ll have someone actually in there to block. It’s not going to change much.”

To be fair, the Cardinals did line up with a fullback a handful of times under Arians, typically in goal line or short yardage situations. But that fullback usually was an extra offensive lineman.

That’s not going to be the case in 2018.

“I’m pretty excited about it. I remember how it well it worked when we went 13-3 when (center) A.Q. (Shipley) was back there running the fullback,” left tackle D.J. Humphries said. “So I’m pretty excited to see how it’s going to work for us as far as full-time.”

Though Ramesh is an undrafted rookie out of out of Wisconsin, Coleman is entering his sixth season in the NFL. He joined the Cardinals after spending last season with the Falcons, which came on the heels of a four-year stint in Seattle.

Last year, Atlanta had the No. 13 rushing attack in terms of total yards yet averaged 4.3 yards per carry, which tied for third-best in the league.

By comparison, the Cardinals ranked 30th and 31st, respectively, in the same categories.

Not to say Coleman is the answer to the Cardinals’ run game issues, but his addition certainly can’t hurt.

Also, Johnson is healthy. He was not last season, a fact that can’t be ignored when looking at the rushing numbers from a year ago.

Johnson’s ability to run with the football was one of the things Wilks singled out after Day 1 of OTAs.

“Just his movement. His ability to be able to play with vision. Make the cut. Get vertical. Also, when you look to put him out in space, some of the things he does out there,” Wilks said. “Again, I think he is an every down back. That’s a major plus at this level. It’s great to see him out there working.”

Of course, what Wilks and everyone else are seeing right now is players practicing in helmets and shorts. The pads won’t come until training camp, when a better representation of the Cardinals offense will be on display.

Still, what Johnson has seen on the field so far has him excited.

“Very excited. It’s a good offense. All the new guys are doing really well,” he said. “I love Sam (Bradford) at quarterback. He’s being a great quarterback, great leader. Already telling guys, everyone what they’re doing. Already teaching and coaching everyone. I’m very excited about this offense, for sure.

“It’s going to be a good year I feel like.”

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