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NFL.com writer: David Johnson not the MVP, but up for other awards

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, left, hands the ball off to running back David Johnson, right, during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

If the Cardinals were a playoff team, there is a good chance David Johnson would be in line to be the NFL MVP.

The second-year running back is fifth in the NFL in rushing yards, with 1,233, and has added another 841 yards through the air. His 2,074 total yards lead the entire NFL, as do his 20 total touchdowns.

He has also set an NFL record for most consecutive games to start a season with at least 100 yards from scrimmage, which is at 15 and counting, while tying Barry Sanders for the most consecutive games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage at any point.

On a personal level, the numbers are clearly there. But when it comes to winning the league’s top award, it appears the Cardinals’ struggles will hold him back. At 6-8-1 Arizona is one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments, and it’s why NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling has Johnson fifth in his MVP candidate rankings.

As it turns out, the Cardinals’ offseason proclamations about Johnson’s Hall of Fame potential and Marshall Faulk-like receiving ability weren’t just another example of hyperbolic homerism. Johnson has joined Faulk (1998-2000), Le’Veon Bell (2014) and Steven Jackson (2006) as the only players ever to record at least 1,200 rushing yards and 800 receiving yards in the same season. More impressively, the new face of Arizona’s franchise is the first player in history to exceed 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the first 15 games of a season. He’s also the first since 2006 MVP LaDainian Tomlinson to reach 2,000 yards from scrimmage while scoring at least 20 touchdowns.

What makes Johnson so unique? He combines Adrian Peterson’s power and explosive cutting ability with Odell Beckham’s breakaway speed and Bell’s receiving ability. I understand the sentiment that Johnson should be rewarded despite his team’s disappointing 6-8-1 record. That’s exactly why we have the Offensive Player of the Year award and the All-Pro team.

Listed ahead of Johnson are Atlanta QB Matt Ryan, New England QB Tom Brady, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers and Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott.

Based on statistics, you could make a case for every one of those players to be the MVP, and that their teams are heading for the playoffs (and in Brady and Elliott’s case, the top overall seeds in their conference), their candidacy certainly gets a boost.

However, though he is probably a little biased, Cardinals QB Carson Palmer does not believe his team’s win/loss record should have an impact on the MVP voting.

“I think Dave (Johnson) should be right there,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t know what’s going on in that race, but he’s as important and as big a star as anybody else in the league, regardless of win-loss.”

While some may be feeling miffed over Johnson being snubbed, it’s worth noting that Arizona’s star is the only player in Wesseling’s top 10 to come from a team that has no chance at reaching the postseason.

And hey, as he wrote, Johnson is still a very good candidate for a couple of other big-time honors.

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