One-year wonder. Injury prone.
Those are some of the adjectives associated with Arizona Cardinals running back, David Johnson.
But entering his fourth and final year of rookie contract, the All-Pro RB will be looking to prove everyone wrong. He’ll also be trying to earn himself a lucrative, long-term contract, all while coming back from a wrist injury that sidelined him for all but three quarters of the 2017 season.
That is a lot on one plate, even for the hungriest of men.
You can also throw in the fact that Johnson will have to learn an entirely new offense under rookie head coach Steve Wilks.
Or that for the first time in his professional career, he’ll be playing behind a fullback with offensive coordinator Mike McCoy calling the plays.
Other than the football, that is a lot of weight to carry for the 224-pounder. But Johnson seems poised for the task at hand.
After his stellar 2016 season, in which he rushed for 1,239 yards and caught 80 passes for 879 yards, Johnson was included in the conversation of being one of the best backs in the NFL.
Having missed almost all of the 2017 campaign, some no longer include him in the conversation as one of the best in the league — and rightfully so.
Is he a one-season wonder? Absolutely not.
But in order for him to be amongst the best in the league once again, the 27-year-old Johnson will need to have a remarkable showing in 2018.
Talent and ability are not at question here. The biggest question that must be answered is whether or not he will be the same back he was in 2016 — or better.
Johnson seems to think so.
Recently, he told local reporters, “I’m trying to bounce back from last year with the wrist and trying to come out and prove to everyone that I am 100 percent and I am better than 2016.”
He not only wants to bounce back, he’ll also love another opportunity at the rare 1000-1000 club. That is 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 yards receiving. Only two running backs in NFL history have accomplished that feat — Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk.
Achieving that would inevitably put him back in the running as best RB in the league.
But first, he must go through his fourth training camp and get acclimated to a new regime. Perhaps no one is more excited about having a healthy Johnson back than his head coach, Steve Wilks.
He’s made it a point, on several occasions, that the Cardinals are going to run the football — and Johnson would get the bulk of the workload.
With David Johnson reporting for training camp and ending his holdout, coach Wilks couldn’t be happier.
“We talked about from day one that he is a major part of what we’re doing,” Wilks said. “I’m glad to have him back. He’s in shape and looking good, and I’m expecting some great things out of him this year.”
I would imagine so are Cardinal fans and fantasy football owners everywhere.
Now I wouldn’t say 2018 is a make or break year for him, but I would say it is probably the most important season of his young career. He wants to stay in Arizona longer term, and the Cardinals — and their fans — would certainly love to see a deal done before he becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season.
They say the NFL has turned into a pass-happy league. The numbers back that up. The days of the workhorse running back, for the most part, are long gone. Most teams elect to go with the running-back-by-committee approach.
But there are still a handful of guys that are so unique in their skill set, they’re able to carry most of the load and a team with their cleats and shoulder pads. Those are the Le’Veon Bell’s, Todd Gurley’s, and Ezekiel Elliots’ of the league. David Johnson is one of those as well.
Having a season akin to his 2016 campaign would not only put him in the running for Comeback Player of the Year, he would also garner much-deserved MVP considerations.
With so many unknowns as to how the Cardinals’ offense will look in the upcoming season, one thing is certain: David Johnson will get the football and look to take over a game.
And in the process, there is no doubt that he can be even better than 2016 and bring home an MVP trophy by the end of the season.