Cardinals GM Keim: You wonder if David Johnson is real
Expectations were high for David Johnson entering this season, and the second-year pro has not disappointed.
Through six weeks, Johnson ranks third in the NFL in rushing yards with 568, and leads the league with eight rushing touchdowns.
Specifically with the Cardinals, he also ranks third in receptions, receiving yards and targets in the passing game.
For fantasy football players, Johnson has been a dominant force who has undoubtedly won some games. For the Cardinals, he is a focal point of an offense that seems to be relying on him more each week.
Why wouldn’t they?
“Well I know he has a unique skill set, because of his ability to create mismatches in the passing game and I really think the one area where he’s evolved is as a pure runner,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday morning. “Evaluating out of college, there were some questions about his ability to run behind his pads and finish between the tackles because he was more of a perimeter runner at Northern Iowa, but he has really, really improved his patience and his vision, and some of the things he does with his lateral jump-cuts for being a big back are really, really impressive.”
In Monday night’s 28-3 win over the New York Jets, Johnson had a 58-yard touchdown run as well as a couple of two-yard scores. He showed his speed to get outside the tackles and make moves down the field as well as an ability to run between the tackles.
He finished the game with 111 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries against one of the NFL’s best run defenses.
“I didn’t think, going into that game, we were going to be able to run it that well — I knew we had to run it — but not that well,” Cardinalis coach Bruce Arians told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM later Tuesday. “But David had a heck of a ballgame.”
Arians has never been shy about prodding his players to do better, and Johnson has often been on the receiving end of public critiques. But while Johnson may not be perfect, Arians knows what he has in him.
“He’s going to be one of the best if he can stay healthy, knock on wood,” he said. “The skill level is there as a runner, a receiver, a blocker. He missed one blitz pickup; that was about the only bad play he had all night.”
Despite Johnson’s gaudy statistics, a sort of running joke this season (no pun intended) has been that as great as Johnson seems to be playing, there have still been significant parts to his game that are lacking. It’s why Johnson, for all he has done, has yet to receive a coveted game ball, though it looks like that streak will be coming to an end.
“Yeah, I think we’ll give him one now,” Arians said, reluctantly.
At the rate he is going, this will not be the last time Johnson is honored. Twenty-two games into his career, Johnson has already been setting franchise records. His 21 touchdowns are the most any Cardinal has had through their first two seasons, and his six straight games with at least 100 total yards from scrimmage has never been done before. Furthermore, his 833 total yards this season are the most any Cardinal has had through the first six games of a season and also happen to lead the entire NFL.
Johnson has been an impressive player, but Keim said the 24-year-old is equally as great of a guy.
“Sometimes when I talk to him, because he is such a good person, you wonder if he’s real,” he said. “He’s articulate (and) he carries himself as a professional. I know he’s a great husband and he’s a to-be father, and he’s again a true professional in the way he carries himself.
“B.A. certainly gives him a hard time now, he coaches him up, which he should, because there still are areas of David’s game where he can improve. But the things he does for this offense really, really does put offenses in a bind because of the pressure he puts on them from a pass-catching standpoint as well.”
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