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Cardinals offense: Johnson’s challenges, Kirk’s resurgence

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) pulls in a 33-yard touchdown pass in front of Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback M.J. Stewart (36) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)

It’s clear Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson is not the same player he was in 2016.

After a fumble in the 30-27 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he didn’t get another touch. Johnson, once a staple of the offense, was not on the field during crunch time.

Instead, newcomer Kenyan Drake, just two games into his Cardinals career, was the one who got a handoff out of the shotgun on the first play of the final drive of the game.

On 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station after the game, head coach Kliff Kingsbury confirmed that Johnson wasn’t out because of injury-related reasons that plagued him the last few weeks.

When asked if it was a coach’s decision to pull him, Kingsbury answered, “It was.”

Johnson has been slower than Arizona is accustomed to and has not been hitting holes like he did in the past. He had five carries on Sunday for a total of two yards.

While Johnson had been fine in the passing game prior to Sunday’s game, he was starting to lose snaps to backup Chase Edmonds prior to an ankle injury that kept him sidelined for all but a snap of the three games prior to the visit to Tampa Bay.

Now Johnson is getting benched on a two-minute drill in a three-point game.

That’s not ideal for a player whose team faces a cap hit of $14,250,000 next year, per Sportrac.

If this trend continues, Johnson’s role will be a huge question once Edmonds returns from injury.

Christian Kirk success

For the first nine weeks of the season, this deal went unused, as Kirk — in part because he missed three weeks due to injury — did not score a touchdown.

But in an otherwise disappointing loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kirk was a bright spot of a Cardinals offense that had some very good moments. He had 138 receiving yards and put away three touchdowns in the loss.

He said he has felt fine since his return on Oct. 27, but today he got “back into the groove.”

“When you’re hurt for a couple weeks you just gotta get back into the game speed of things, but today just clicked,” Kirk said on 98.7 FM after the game.

Kirk’s resurgence comes at an ideal time for Arizona. The running back position has obvious holes with Johnson struggling, Edmonds out and Drake still somewhat of a question mark — he had an elite game last week and was OK in limited attempts against the league’s top rushing defense on Sunday, gaining 35 yards on 10 carries.

With him hitting his groove as quarterback Kyler Murray continues to get accustomed to the NFL game, it gives the Cardinals a better chance to continue being explosive as the team looks for its fourth win.

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