A new offense, and what it could mean for David Johnson

If topic No. 1 last season was watching how rookie quarterback Josh Rosen developed, topic 1A was the use of running back David Johnson. It was something that never quite got adjusted. The hiring of Kliff Kingsbury as coach/offensive guru will mean a lot of things in a lot of offensive areas, but getting David Johnson back to his 2016 levels will be of significant importance.

"David Johnson is a tremendous asset," Kingsbury said. "He's a guy who can do from the backfield, between the tackles, you can motion him out. He's a mismatch in space. I can't wait for our offensive coaches to be able to get their hands on him."

(Quick aside. We still aren't sure exactly who all those offensive coaches, aside from Kingsbury, will be. James Saxon, formerly of the Steelers, is reported to be the running backs coach, although nothing has been officially announced. The Cardinals are still working on finding an offensive coordinator as well, with the potential names out there right now being ex-Giants OC/HC Ben McAdoo, ex-Lions OC Jim Bob Cooter or Ex-Packers OC Tom Clements. Veteran Sean Kugler has been named the offensive line coach.)

A refresher, since it's been a minute since Johnson posted his big stats in 2016. He had 1,239 yards rushing and 879 yards receiving (on 80 receptions) that season. He was as dangerous of a dual threat as you could get, running pass routes like a receiver. Then he broke his wrist in the first game of 2017, ending his season, and struggled -- as did the entire offense -- all of 2018.

It's difficult to make a direct line from what Kingsbury did as coach at Texas Tech and how it will look in the NFL, but it was interesting that for all the throwing the Red Raiders did under Kingsbury, the running backs weren't exactly a huge part of the passing game. Texas Tech used multiple running backs in his years there, but the most catches a running back had in a season was Deandre Washington's 41 in 2015 (and that was the fourth-highest total on the team.)

Again, the NFL can change things. The Cardinals, for one, have to upgrade at receiver. Right now, even if Larry Fitzgerald comes back, Johnson could battle Christian Kirk as the second-best pass catcher. Kingsbury also already noted he will mesh his ideas with the offensive coordinator so it fits on this level. And, truthfully, Johnson is a better back than anyone Kingsbury has had in that spot when he was a head coach in college.

Regardless, the Cardinals are in the same spot they were with Johnson that they were in 2017 and 2018 -- they need him to be great. Kingsbury has to find ways so that happens.

RB David Johnson
RB David Johnson

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