Cardinals RB David Johnson on reduced role: ‘It’s obviously been hard’

Nov 27, 2019, 4:03 PM | Updated: 11:39 pm
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)...
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. — David Johnson sounds like he’s gotten the message from the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff.

Even then, he doesn’t seem sure of his role moving forward.

All the evidence from his last time out on the field — no touches and just nine snaps played — indicates the fifth-year running back knows he has something to prove.

“It’s obviously been hard. Back in the past, I was in most, majority of the snaps,” Johnson said Wednesday. “It’s been rough. I just got to move past it … make the most of every opportunity and just have positive yards or have positive plays.”

Johnson said the coaching staff has not told him whether his role will remain reduced or if they will find a way to heavily utilize him alongside fellow backs Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds this Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.

He did, however, say he’s spoken to the staff.

“What we said is just between me and the coaches,” Johnson said. “Every opportunity, just got to make the most of it.”

Johnson said he’s healthy. He doesn’t buy that injuries pile up and shorten the careers or effectiveness of running backs.

To him, there was no clear reason why he played so sparingly behind Drake two weeks ago against the San Francisco 49ers. That came after head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Johnson had his best week of practice.

Johnson also seemed to shoot down the assertion that his apprehensive running style was a result of indecisiveness, as Cardinals general manager Steve Keim put it Wednesday when he joined Doug & Wolf.

“Whenever he sees something, you have to make a decision to stick your foot in the ground and finish the run,” Keim said on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “I think too many times David’s indecisive and has struggled to make quick decisions and to finish those runs.

“Whether you’re going to make a mistake or not, you got to realize as a football player you got to make it full speed. That’s something David needs to improve upon.”

Asked if he agree with that response, Johnson only went as far as saying “everyone has a different opinion.”

For Kingsbury, the battle is not only keeping Johnson engaged if he feels the running back can help Arizona. It’s about actually finding enough touches for the three backs, something the head coach again said was in the works on Wednesday.

“We’re all very versatile backs,” Drake said. “I feel like no matter who’s in the game … you can’t pigeonhole us into a certain thing, a certain scheme.

“Looking forward to the way Coach Kingsbury kind of draws this gameplan up for us.”

Throw quarterback Kyler Murray into the rushing attack, and the Cardinals don’t need to look far to determine how to split carries or how to design packages against the Rams. On Monday Night Football, the Baltimore Ravens carried the ball 48 times against Los Angeles with four players receiving eight or more carries each.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson and running backs Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill combined to rush for 285 yards.

“If you look at the gameplan the 49ers had for us last (game) they were just crashing the D-end on the running back and having the linebacker scrape over the top for Kyler,” Drake said. “I expect that kind of to be a similar gameplan the Rams take hold.

“If they decide to put people in the box, he can hurt them with the arm. He can hurt the defense a multitude of ways.”

Whether he sees 20 carries, eight carries or one, Johnson appears to know the stakes.

“Getting back on the field and just proving everyone wrong,” he said of what motivates him. “I’ve been there before. Hasn’t stopped me. Coming from Iowa and not being a big Iowa recruit … coming into the league. Nothing new.”

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