Things are pretty good for the Arizona Cardinals right now, especially in their running game.
Sounds weird to say that about a team that has ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL’s rushing statistics annually.
But 2015 has been a different story. The Cardinals have run for 374 yards through the season’s first three games — good enough to rank 11th in the league. They’re also 11th in yards per carry (4.2) and tied for fourth in carries of 10 yards or more (12).
Considering their best run blocker, guard Mike Iupati, hasn’t played a snap and starting running back Andre Ellington is close to returning from a knee injury, there is even more reason for optimism.
Head coach Bruce Arians faces a problem, albeit a good one. How will he divvy up playing time between Ellington and Chris Johnson when the former does get back on the field?
Johnson, who was signed as an insurance policy midway through training camp, has paid early dividends. In the last two games, the veteran has run for 182 yards on 42 carries ans has scored two touchdowns. He’s currently seventh in the league in rushing.
“Chris fits our system real well. He’s now getting in football shape,” Arians told SiriusXM NFL Radio Tuesday night. “When we got him, he wasn’t in great football shape and pulled a hamstring early in camp. He’s now getting in football shape and he has his explosiveness.
“And we’re not going to wear him out. He’s still going to be a 15-to-20-touch guy even when Andre Ellington comes back this week — hopefully we’ll have all three guys. Now that David Johnson has emerged, we don’t have to pound just one guy all the time.”
In Week 1 against New Orleans, Ellington was the “feature back,” getting 13 total touches to Chris Johnson’s 10. Rookie David Johnson, as Arians eluded to, has emerged as a change-of-pace back through the first three games.
The Cardinals hope to have all three backs available for duty when they host the St. Louis Rams Sunday afternoon at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
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