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Is Chris Johnson and 2.9 replaceable?

Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson (23) runs for a touchdown as Baltimore Ravens defensive end Carl Davis (94) looks on during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

When news first broke from Jay Glazer that Cardinals running back Chris Johnson suffered a fractured tibia in the win over the 49ers, my thoughts — in order — went something like this:

  1. How long is he out (answer: not sure yet but not necessarily the rest of the year)?
  2. Gratitude. Cornball as it sounds, it’s entirely appropriate given how important Johnson has been in providing the Cardinals something they’ve so rarely enjoyed; a steady productive running game.
  3. Is 2.9 irreplaceable?

As important as Chris Johnson has been up until this point, it’s also fair to wonder if that needle was on “E”. Excluding the extremely productive game against Baltimore (18/122/TD), Johnson has rushed 99 times for 287 yards and no touchdowns in his last five games.

2.9 yards per carry.

Of course, that’s not all him. Some blame surely is on the offensive line. Monday, Bruce Arians was clear he was not pleased with their work in Santa Clara.

But last year the Cards rushed for 3.3 yards per carry for the whole season and made it to the playoffs. We all know the number 3.3 isn’t the reason they couldn’t get any further in the playoffs than they did.

The injury would be much easier to accept if Andre Ellington were healthy, but he’s not. The tough-but-fragile Ellington is now dealing with a turf toe, one that may keep him out longer than Johnson according to one former NFL team doc on twitter.

Can David Johnson, Stepfan Taylor and perhaps Kerwynn Williams keep defenses honest enough to allow Carson Palmer to do what he does? After watching how far they went last year with a suspect running game I certainly think the answer is yes. How the rookie out of Northern Iowa performs in blitz pickup may determine more than anything else. And then of course there is the fumbling issue that causes all involved to hold their collective breath.

I can’t predict what will happen from here on out. But I know what a devastating late-season injury looks like. I saw it and so did you. And this ain’t it.

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