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Cardinals GM addresses RB Johnson’s inconsistency, Kaepernick workout

Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) strips the ball from Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) for a fumble during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. Tampa Bay recovered the fumble. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said the team is working with running back David Johnson to help him improve after an up-and-down front half of the season.

Johnson has been productive in spurts. He has 302 rushing yards and 323 more receiving this season, but the former has been inefficient compared to his teammates at running back.

While Chase Edmonds has averaged 5.1 yards per rush and newcomer Kenyan Drake sits at 5.8, an apprehensive-looking Johnson has only averaged 3.7 yards a carry.

“I think the biggest issue is when you look at this season’s totality, Dave has done some good things,” Keim told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “Look at the Cincinnati game and the catch down the sidelines … the Atlanta game. Catching the football still to me is his strength.

“I think the area we would all agree on is the lack of consistency. There’s no doubt that that needs to improve. Usually where players have issues is the consistency area. That’s something only David can fix.”

Johnson, who has battled back and ankle injuries in the last several weeks, was benched last Sunday in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after fumbling the ball. Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury finished the game by turning to Drake, who was in his second game with Arizona after being traded from Miami.

Keim backed Kingsbury’s move.

“We’re in this game to win,” the general manager said. “No different from a pitcher or a (basketball) player that’s maybe hot with his threes, let’s go with a hot hand. David makes a mistake, Kenyan’s running the football well where he’s catching the ball out of the backfield. Got to go with the hot hand.”

Keim told Doug & Wolf that he has spoken with Johnson about his struggles, adding he knows Johnson might be struggling with overthinking and making quick decisions as a runner.

“David is a competitive guy,” Keim said. “I think he does love the game.

“He’s the only one that can get himself sort of out of this hole. The good news is watching practice this week, he’s been extremely energetic. He’s had a great week of practice and hopefully this weekend we’ll see him put his best foot forward.”

Kaepernick workout ‘nothing new’

The Cardinals will attend the NFL-regimented workout of free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick this weekend.

While Keim wouldn’t go into detail about who among the Cardinals scouting staff will attend the workout this Saturday in Atlanta, the GM did say it is standard procedure for them to take a peek at a veteran free agent.

“We do somewhere between 100 and 120 workouts a year for UFAs (unrestricted free agents),” he said. “This is nothing new. It’s all part of the information-gathering process, and you know, that area has got a lot of college football games going on so we’ll have a representative in that area who will attend.”

Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016, when he began protesting police brutality and racial issues during the national anthems of games. The quarterback who led the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII reached a settlement with the NFL in February after he and safety Eric Reid filed a grievance through the NFL Players Association, alleging collusion that kept him from landing a new opportunity.

As for the Cardinals judging Kaepernick, Keim said time away from the game could play a factor in the quarterback’s viability to return to the league.

“A lot of times guys’ bodies change, their skillsets change over time,” he said. “I guess we’ll find out on Saturday.”

Arizona, of course, appears set at quarterback for the time being. Kyler Murray is the future. Backup Brett Hundley fits their scheme and looked good in preseason snaps, but his contract is only for one year.

The Cardinals also have 25-year-old Kyle Sloter on the practice squad.

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