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Despite Little Work, David Johnson Not Rusty

Posted Sep 8, 2017

Notes: Nkemdiche, Iupati are game-day decisions; Special teams still coming together

Cardinals running back David Johnson played only 11 snaps in the preseason.

The Cardinals got through the preseason with David Johnson healthy. That was the top goal.

But even that had a downside, at least for offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin.

“The only think I am nervous about is the limited reps in the preseason,” Goodwin said. “He hasn’t really been out there.”

The running back played just 11 snaps in five preseason games. He did get the ball when he was in there, carrying it six times (for 19 yards) and making one catch for eight yards. Johnson, who wants to follow up his 1,239-yards-rushing-and-879-yards-receiving season by reaching 1,000 yards in both categories, isn’t concerned. He just wants to finally be able to play.

“I don’t think I’m rusty,” Johnson said. “I feel great. All camp, especially since it was a longer camp, I’ve been ready to get the pads on.”

Much of the discussion about the Cardinals offense in the preseason has centered around things that are not Johnson – the offensive line, the passing game, John Brown’s health, even Johnson’s backup at running back. But the offense will revolve around Johnson.

Goodwin said Johnson has benefitted from the move of Freddie Kitchens – formerly the quarterbacks coach and a one-time quarterback himself – to running backs coach, which has helped Johnson understand route-running and the passing game more. Johnson also thinks he’s improved in blitz pickup.

Not that Johnson will be blocking as often as going out for passes, as he tries to lay claim to the best running back in the league. Johnson is humble, but even he believes he has to believe in himself.

“You always have to think you’re the best at your position,” Johnson said “I feel you wouldn’t be able to compete at a high level if you don’t think you’re the best.”

Now he finally gets to show it for real in 2017.

“He’s got fresh legs,” Goodwin said. “Anybody plays well, it should be him.”

NKEMDICHE, IUPATI  GAME-DAY DECISIONS

Coach Bruce Arians said defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche (calf) and guard Mike Iupati (triceps) will both be game-day decisions. Both practiced some Friday and “we’ll see how it goes,” Arians said.

If Iupati cannot play, it would be John Wetzel, not newcomer Alex Boone, who would get the start.

“(Wetzel) is a starter in my mind,” Arians said, when asked about his trust level. “We’ve won a lot of games with him starting.”

Arians also said he was confident in the defensive line room even if Nkemdiche is unavailable, praising each of the other six.

“It’s a great rotation,” Arians said. “There’s not an ego out there that’s going to try and play tired and give up a play. I’m not afraid to play all of them, because they all bring something special.”

As Arians had indicated earlier in the week, linebacker Deone Bucannon (ankle) is out.

For the Lions, defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (knee), wide receiver Kenny Golladay (ankle) and tackle Corey Robinson (foot) are all questionable.

EVEN AFTER SIGNINGS, SPECIAL TEAMS STILL IN TRANSITION

The special teams units already have been upgraded with the additions of veteran kicker Phil Dawson and veteran punter Andy Lee. But there will be a little bit of a transition, special teams coordinator Amos Jones said, on the coverage and blocking units as the new pieces come together on the fly.

“Guys have to learn how to fit, how to play beside one another, there is always the unknown there when you lose a few guys coming out of training camp (after cuts),” Jones said. “Going into the first game, I think we’ll be OK. I think our speed level is good. I expect the guys who have been with us to play well.”

Jones said the amount of special teams starting cornerback and former Pro Bowl special teamer Justin Bethel plays will be up to head coach Bruce Arians. Jones also said this training camp had been the first in his 35 years of coaching when none of his specialists had previously been to camp with him.

WHEELER CUT, WRIGHT PROMOTED

The Cardinals made a roster move Friday, releasing linebacker Philip Wheeler and promoting linebacker Scooby Wright from the practice squad.

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