Cardinals RB David Johnson: I can’t wait for the opportunity

Dec 3, 2015, 6:30 AM | Updated: 5:18 pm
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) pulls in a touchdown catch as Cincinnati Bengals ...
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)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. – Next.  Man.  Up.

Last season’s often-used slogan has resurfaced; dusted off the shelf following the injuries to Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington, the Arizona Cardinals’ top two running backs.

Third in that position group is rookie David Johnson.

The Cardinals will turn to their third-round pick this week at St. Louis, giving Johnson the keys to the backfield.

“I feel ready to go,” he said Wednesday.  “I can’t wait for the opportunity.”

Of course, Johnson won’t be asked to go at it alone.

Stepfan Taylor and Kerwynn Williams, recently elevated from the practice squad to the active roster, are expected to see playing time as well, but for the most part, it will be Johnson who will see the bulk of the carries against the Rams, and perhaps the foreseeable future.

“It’s not like I haven’t been here throughout practice and being in the game, preparing each week,” he said.  “It’s nothing different.  The only thing is that I’m playing a little bit more.”

Johnson served as Chris Johnson’s backup earlier in the season when Ellington was sidelined by a knee injury.  In those three games, including a Week 4 matchup against the Rams, Johnson rushed a combined 15 times for 85 yards and a touchdown.

On the season, Johnson has carried the ball 35 times for 139 yards.

“When Andre was out, David was playing a lot more early in the year; played extremely well,” head coach Bruce Arians said, specifically mentioning Johnson’s first meeting with the Rams when he ran the ball three times for 18 yards and caught four passes for 63 yards and a touchdown.

That Oct. 4 game also saw Johnson fumble the opening kickoff, one of his two lost fumbles this season.

Ball security has been somewhat of an issue for Johnson, especially early on.

“I have in the back of my mind, ‘high and tight’,” he said, referring to where to hold the football.  “(Fumbles are) something that as a running back, you can’t have especially if you want to be able to run the ball.  You don’t want to have the ball on the ground.  Just having it high and tight throughout practice and not dropping it.”

Johnson also pointed to his improved pass protection, route running and just running the ball in general.

“Everything has developed a lot more,” he said.

And what of the pressure of being asked to step into a starting role vacated by the league’s fourth-leading rusher?

Johnson quickly dismissed such a notion.  He’s played in every game, after all, and last week in San Francisco scored his team-best fourth rushing touchdown and eighth overall, the most by a rookie in the NFL this season.

“Don’t over think everything,” Johnson said of the advice he’s been given by teammates.  “Just come out and play my game.  I don’t need to try to do too much, just do my role and help out the team as much as I can.”

The Cardinals drafted Johnson with the 86th overall pick, selecting him out of Northern Iowa, where he was a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his final three seasons.

At 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds, Johnson gives the Cardinals power coming out of the backfield.

“Just a different size back, really,” quarterback Carson Palmer said.  “When you look at Andre and Chris, he’s probably got 30 pounds on those guys.  Straight-ahead speed, he’s probably as fast as those guys.  Those guys are definitely shiftier and quicker, but he just runs through people and through arm tackles.  Kind of like a Todd Gurley-style runner.  Fast in the open field and just big, hard to bring down.  We’re all excited to see him play.”

Sunday will mark Johnson’s 16th professional game, including the preseason, two more than he played his senior year.

“Actually, I’m feeling really, really good,” he said, mindful of the proverbial rookie wall.

That’s good, because the ball is expected to be his hands this week more than it’s ever been this season.

Johnson, coming off a season-high eight-carry performance against the 49ers, hopes the more he touches the ball, the more he’ll get a feel for the game.

“It’s very exciting,” he said.  “I can’t wait.  I’m blessed.  I’m very glad to have this opportunity to help out the team.”

Life Changer Loans


Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals CB Marco Wilson runs through drills during training camp on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2...
Tyler Drake

Trio of potential Cardinals starters expected to get some run vs. Bengals

Dennis Gardeck, Marco Wilson and Zaven Collins will all see their fair share of preseason reps against the Bengals on Friday.
13 hours ago
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) is tackled by Philadelphia Eagles safety Marc...
Arizona Sports

Larry Fitzgerald, Pedro Gomez in 2022 Arizona Sports Hall of Fame class

Arizona Cardinals legend Larry Fitzgerald and late journalist Pedro Gomez are among the 2022 class entering the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame.
13 hours ago
The Arizona Cardinals defense celebrate and pose for a picture in front of a media photographer aft...
Arizona Sports

Hard Knocks In Season: The Arizona Cardinals to debut Nov. 9

The premier date for Hard Knocks In Season: The Arizona Cardinals is set for Wednesday, Nov. 9 on HBO and HBO Max.
2 days ago
Deshaun Watson #4 of the Cleveland Browns takes off his helmet as he warms up during the Cleveland ...
Associated Press

Deshaun Watson suspension appeal ‘right thing to do,’ says Roger Goodell

Commissioner Roger Goodell said he feels the NFL needed to keep pushing for a year-long suspension for Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson.
2 days ago
Arizona Cardinals RB Eno Benjamin runs through drills during the Red & White practice on Saturday, ...
Tyler Drake

Cardinals notebook: RB Eno Benjamin’s confidence ‘through the roof’

It's all about staying locked into the moment when Cardinals RB Eno Benjamin gets the starting nod against the Bengals on Friday.
2 days ago
Cortez Davis #18 of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors makes an interception against Jalen Cropper #5 of t...
Jake Anderson

Arizona Cardinals sign rookie cornerback Cortez Davis

The Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday signed rookie cornerback Cortez Davis, adding depth to a highly-competitive position battle.
2 days ago
Cardinals RB David Johnson: I can’t wait for the opportunity