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Cardinals OC: David Johnson has a little Adrian Peterson potential

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) tries to elude Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Clay Matthews (52) during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

If you are trying to temper your excitement over David Johnson’s future, look away.

Because according to Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, the running back’s upside is “huge.”

A guest of the Big Red Rage on the Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday, Goodwin was not short on praise for the third-round pick who finished his rookie season with 581 rushing yards, 457 receiving yards and 13 total touchdowns.

“I’ve been in this league going on 13 years now, coming up next season, and been around a lot of backs,” he said. “I’ve never seen one quite like him with the size, the speed, the hands.”

The 86th overall pick in the draft out of Northern Iowa, Johnson measures in at 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds. He saw his role change from primary kick returner and spot-duty running back early in the season to primary runner once Chris Johnson was sidelined with an injury, and over a seven-game stretch as the No. 1 back — including playoffs — he ran for 537 yards and five touchdowns on 120 carries, while adding 327 yards and one touchdown on 32 catches.

He was arguably Arizona’s most effective offensive player in the 49-15 NFC Championship Game loss to Carolina, with 128 total yards and one touchdown.

“Knock on wood, this guy’s got a little A.P. (Adrian Peterson) potential, and probably has better hands.”

While Goodwin’s words may sound a bit hyperbolic, the fact is the Cardinals will likely lean on Johnson rather heavily next season. The very attributes the offensive coordinator pointed out are what make him a dynamic talent, and no doubt opponents will see him as someone they need to stop if they are to slow Arizona’s offense.

The Cardinals know that, too, and understand they must figure out ways to get the running back the ball in ways he can be successful.

“He’s a pivotal part going forward; we’ve got to do things that are going to be to his advantage,” Goodwin said. “Obviously he’s a guy that can do everything, so we’ve just got to make sure we don’t overload him.”

Including kick returns, Johnson touched the ball 183 times as a rookie. As the number one running back he is unlikely to see much special teams duty, but you can expect his carry count to rise substantially. And if there is one question facing him, it is whether or not he can carry the load — and sustain the pounding — that comes with being a lead back over the course of an entire season.

That is something the team will certainly be mindful of, but again, you want to get the ball in a player to a player like Johnson as often as you can, and his ability to contribute in the passing game adds another way for them to do so.

“We’re not afraid to split him out; in [Bruce Arians’] offense the halfback’s got to be able to catch,” Goodwin said. “They’ve got to be out and be somewhat of a receiver as well, and he does a great job of that.”

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