Cardinals’ Johnson ready to quiet critics, Edmonds ‘at home’ in offense

Aug 5, 2019, 10:23 AM | Updated: 2:44 pm
Arizona Cardinals RB David Johnson caches a pass during the team’s Red and White Practice Saturda...
Arizona Cardinals RB David Johnson caches a pass during the team’s Red and White Practice Saturday, August 3, 2019, at State Farm Stadium. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson balled out in 2016, racking up over 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground, while catching 80 balls for another 879 yards.

The dream of reaching 1,000 yards rushing and a 1,000 yards receiving looked firmly in reach for the then-second-year player in 2017.

But 11 carries and six receptions into the season, Johnson’s hopes of attaining those goals were dashed after suffering a dislocated wrist in just the third quarter of the first game of the year.

The next season saw a coaching change, which failed to utilize Johnson’s abilities, slashing his receiving totals nearly in half. To add fuel to the fire, most of the team’s offensive line couldn’t stay healthy. Johnson still managed to land at 13th among NFL running backs in yards in 2018.

With yet another coaching switch in 2019, many believe Johnson is going to get the short straw in an offense tailored to the passing game, with some going as far as keeping him outside the top 20.

But Johnson knows what kind of running back he is. His teammates know it and his coaches know it.

“I’ve always been overlooked so I kinda learned how to just ignore that and just grind and really do what’s best for the team,” Johnson said when asked about being ranked 25th in the league among backs. “I mean ever since I’ve been in high school I’ve always had that so … now I just don’t even think about it.”

That attitude has helped get him where he is today.

And while it’s the third system in three years for Johnson, he’s already getting that 2016 feeling, reigniting that fire to reach a level only Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk have achieved.

“It’ll mean a lot,” Johnson on reaching the 1,000-yard mark in both rushing and receiving. “I think the biggest thing it would mean is that I did bounce back from what feels like a long time, 2016.

“And really just for me, It’s been a personal goal of mine ever since I really got into the league and now I’m already on my fifth year and I’ve only been close to it once. For me it’s more like my pride and what I want to accomplish in the league.”

The new-look offense is still under tight wraps as head coach Kliff Kingsbury and Co. continue to work through their first training camp, but one thing’s for sure: they are going to play fast.

With the idea of getting plays off before the 15-second headset cutoff, the Cardinals could be one of the quickest teams in the NFL. Both Kingsbury and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray know they need Johnson to be productive to make the offense click, whether that be in the passing game or on the ground.

Johnson figures to stay busy in both facets of the game.

While Johnson’s drop in stock can be linked to the question marks surrounding running backs in an Air Raid offense, the numbers speak for themselves.

Granted it’s college, but Kingsbury produced a 1,000-yard running back at Texas Tech in DeAndre Washington in 2014 and 2015. Johnson is clear and away a better back both rushing and receiving.

From the looks of it, Johnson’s going to get the best of both worlds in the Cardinals offense.

He’s going to get his carries, but Johnson’s also going to be that security blanket for his rookie QB, leaving the opportunity of exceeding his 2016 numbers for the taking.

But it’s on Johnson to make sure he’s ready when it comes knocking.

“I like to grow and get better,” Johnson said when talking about getting more reps in the offense. “Biggest thing is I want to know exactly ins and outs of the offense so if he calls my number I know what I’m doing and honestly, I like the ball in my hands.”

Chase Edmonds building on rookie year with added confidence

Johnson may be in line for the brunt of the load in 2019, but it’s trending that Chase Edmonds could be in store for an uptick in usage this season.

The second-year running back out of Fordham is having a decent training camp, showing his worth in an offense he’s quite familiar in.

“It excites just because I feel like I’m at home,” Edmonds said of the new system. “My four-year career at Fordham was nothing but this type of offense — spread offense and shotgun — and really just being able to use my vision with my lanes and showing how versatile I can be in the slot. And that’s basically what it is here so I just feel right at home.”

Arizona Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds signs autographs following the team’s Red and White Practice Saturday, August 3, 2019, at State Farm Stadium. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

At Fordham, Edmonds enjoyed three straight seasons of more than 1,600 rushing yards, with 1,838 being his season-high in 2014. He averaged 20 rushing touchdowns a season over that span. Edmonds also added 86 receptions for 905 yards and seven scores.

And although 2018 proved disastrous for the Cardinals offensively, the year provided reps for the then-rookie looking to establish his identity in the NFL. He accounted for 208 yards and two touchdowns (60 carries) on the ground, and added another 103 in the air. Edmonds did, however, make the most of the balls thrown his way, catching 20-of-23 targets.

And most importantly, he was able to use those reps to shake off the first-year jitters.

“The biggest thing I always tell people is my confidence,” Edmonds said when asked what the biggest change in him has been. “Last year I was walking on eggshells, I was a rookie. Really just trying not to mess up, trying not to make any mistakes.

“But this year I go out with the mentality that I’m trying to make plays on this team, and I’m just trying to show that I can have a pivotal role in this offense.”

In an offense that hopes to use speed to its advantage in 2019, Edmonds, who calls his receiving abilities the best part of his game, is in store for a boost in reps.

“I try to take it a day at time. My goal is do more with less,” Edmonds said. “That’s really my motto right now. Do more with less and just whatever touches I get in this offense do the most that I can with my abilities and continue to move forward and stay humble, man, stay grounded.”

It’s a completely different look offensively for Edmonds.

Gone is Josh Rosen — among others — and in his place is Kyler Murray, someone Edmonds already sees as a positive edition to not just the offense in general but to the running game specifically, given his athletic abilities.

The Cardinals have revamped the team on both sides of the ball. They drafted a QB with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Some believe they will fail in their new offensive scheme. Some think they’ll flourish.

Edmonds wants the product on the field to do the talking.

“There’s a lot of talk about expectations, but I’m not one for expectations,” Edmonds said. “I think we just got to really collectively find 11 that can go out and make this offense work. And coach Kingsbury, he’s a great offensive mind.

“He’s obviously had success with this offense. We just need to find a way to take it over and showcase that it can work in the NFL.

“We’ve got a dynamic quarterback in Kyler Murray,” Edmonds added. “We’ve got dynamic receivers, dynamic running backs, we’ve got a great O-line.

“We just got to find a way to put it all together, mesh it all, and go out there and make it work on Sunday, which is the most important thing to do.”

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