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Arizona Cardinals’ David Johnson: Linebackers have trouble covering me

LISTEN: David Johnson- Cardinals' running back
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) pulls in a touchdown catch as Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Eighty-five players were selected before the Arizona Cardinals took running back David Johnson out of Northern Iowa in last April’s NFL Draft.

Yet none of them has scored more touchdowns.

Johnson is tied with Buffalo’s Karlos Williams with seven touchdowns this season. The latest came Sunday night — a 16-yard score on a beautiful throw by Carson Palmer in the Cardinals’ 34-31 win over the Cincinnati Bengals that pushed their record to 8-2 on the season.

“It was a rail route,” Johnson told Burns and Gambo Monday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “What we wanted was a linebacker to matched up on me. A lot of teams we play, sometimes they put a safety to try to guard us, but what we wanted was the linebacker and that’s what we ended up having.

“As soon as Carson saw that, he knew I was going to beat him one-on-one and he threw a perfect ball to me.”

The linebacker that was victimized on the play was Vontaze Burfict, the former Arizona State standout. Nothing personal, says Johnson. It’s just something the Cardinals try to exploit.

“We know a lot of linebackers have trouble covering not just me, but Andre (Ellington), coming out of the backfield,” he said.

Johnson has touched the ball on offense only 44 times in Arizona’s first 10 games, but he’s found the end zone on an astounding 13.6 percent of his opportunities. You’d think that would lead him to feel entitled for more. You’d be wrong.

“I definitely happy,” he said. “I know that Coach (Arians) has the best for me. I know that he wants the best for all of us. I can’t complain at all, where I’m at and especially where our team is at.”

Johnson has also served as the Cardinals’ kickoff return man this year, and ranks third in the league averaging 27.8 yards per attempt. His 108-yard return on the opening kickoff in a Week 2 win over the Chicago Bears is the longest in the league this season and tied an NFL record.

The coaching staff has shown trust in the rookie, who has taken several kicks out of the end zone.

“It’s all up to me,” Johnson said. “What I’m seeing when the ball is kicked and as far as leverage with our blockers in front of me, so it’s all up to me”

Johnson enjoys having that decision-making power.

“It gives me more freedom to do what I want and do what I actually believe is the right move. Sometimes I don’t make the right move, but that’s a part of football and I’m glad (special teams coach Amos Jones) has the trust in me for me to do what I need to do.”

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