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Cardinals take baby step in getting 3 RBs involved

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) celebrates his touchdown catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It won’t show in the box score or even much by way of the official snap counts, but the Arizona Cardinals did make minor headway in getting the most out of their three running backs.

Kenyan Drake again took the majority share of the carries in a 23-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, but David Johnson and Chase Edmonds each earned enough snaps on offense to impact the game.

For Johnson, it was most notably a reprieve after the team’s franchise running back all but lost his role just two games back, failing to earn a touch.

Against Pittsburgh, he caught a 24-yard touchdown on a dime from quarterback Kyler Murray that brought Arizona within 20-17 with 6:44 to play in the game.

“Felt good. Felt good to be back involved, get in the end zone,” Johnson said. “End of the day, we still lost. It doesn’t feel too good.”

Johnson finished with two catches for 34 yards and added three carries for 19 more.

Against a Steelers team with a talented front-seven, Arizona attempted to stay away from running it in the trenches. Drake got the majority of those type of carries and produced just 37 yards on 11 rushing attempts.

Drake also added three catches for 30 yards.

The curiosity came in how the Cardinals and head coach Kliff Kingsbury got Johnson and Edmonds involved behind Drake. Getting all three on the field at once was made possible with a diamond formation: Murray flanked by Johnson and Edmonds with Drake standing behind him in the backfield.

“We’ve been working on it. We just utilized it a little more this game,” Johnson said. “I think it makes it tough to know what we’re really doing. We can run out of it, we can pass out of it.”

But Kingsbury also tossed Johnson and Edmonds out as wide receivers as the Cardinals went with open sets. Both of them were on the same side of the field on the play in which Johnson got behind the Pittsburgh defensive backs for a score.

“It’s just getting used to finding ways to get them the football,” Kingsbury said. “It’s a good problem to have. We just have to be smart in utilizing all three guys.”

The results, of course, leave much room for improvement.

Edmonds was targeted twice but dropped one dumpoff and also saw Murray picked off when cornerback Joe Haden jumped a route in the third quarter.

The running back trio combined for 15 rushes and 65 yards, a respectable 4.3 yards per carry. Johnson and Drake were the second- and third-leading receivers in terms of yardage behind Christian Kirk’s eight receptions for 85 yards.

“Me from a personal standpoint, I feel like if I’m not part of the solution, I’m part of the problem,” Drake said. “I feel like I left some plays or some yards out on the field in some crucial situations. I just want to continue to be a valuable part of this team and trying to help this team win games in any capacity possible.”

Phillips Law Group

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