TEMPE, Ariz. — Expectations have weighed on David Johnson. The Arizona Cardinals stamped him as the face of the franchise with a contract extension hours before the 2018 season began, and 13 games later, a sobering 3-10 record has hit everyone in the organization hard.
So the franchise running back hasn’t had time to consider what the 1,000-yard mark means to him, good or bad.
“No, not at all. This has been such a tough year for me,” Johnson said Friday. “I’ve been really trying to figure out and trying to do everything I can to help out the offense and do my part. Going into this season I had high hopes and everyone expected more out of me, and I didn’t live up to it.”
Put it into perspective, and judging Johnson’s individual performance this year isn’t so grim.
For one, he’s played in every game since a wrist injury zapped all but a handful of quarters to his 2017 season. After going full-go in practice Friday, he’s expected to keep that streak going Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons despite a quad injury that kept him out of practice Wednesday and limited him Thursday.
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Johnson has played for an offensive line that two weeks ago had completed a turnover at every position from what it had entering training camp. The offense switched offensive coordinators, flipped quarterbacks and lost its best receiver.
Its franchise star, Larry Fitzgerald, is on pace for his least productive NFL season in 15 tries. Finally, with all the above considered, Johnson has been used in as predictable a manner as possible — he’s hardly been used as a receiver, and he’s rushed around the center more than any other player in the NFL.
All that said, Johnson is on pace to miss the 1,000-yard mark by just three yards. From one perspective, his 810 yards and 3.7 yards per carry are impressive enough, especially for a franchise that has rarely fielded four-figure backs.
“For a running back, the O-line is everything,” Johnson said. “They’re very important for me and when you have different guys coming in every week, it makes it hard. But for me, I’m supposed to be a play-maker. I got to help the O-line out as well.”
Johnson has made it a theme to blame himself after tough losses, whether the game included explicit failures — missed blocks, fumbles or untimely albeit brief benchings — or not.
But few would attribute his relatively lackluster season as his own fault. Head coach Steve Wilks and both of Johnson’s offensive coordinators, Mike McCoy and Byron Leftwich, have talked about putting him in a better position to succeed, week after week.
Be it due to poor creativity on his coaches’ part, failed blocking in front of him or his poor play, it’s been an admittedly tough year for the fourth-year pro.
“It hasn’t gone great for anyone on this team — coaches, players included,” Leftwich said. “Because it’s not just about David. To play football in this league, for one guy to have success, it takes multiple people. It takes multiple people especially at that position. That’s just the truth.
“I may try to put a better spin on it, but I’m going to tell you the truth.”
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