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Cardinals Need To Be "Creative" In Using David Johnson

Wilks emphasizes confidence in McCoy, downplays potential QB change

Running back David Johnson carries the ball against the Rams Sunday. Coach Steve Wilks said the Cardinals need to be more creative getting Johnson the ball coming forward.
Running back David Johnson carries the ball against the Rams Sunday. Coach Steve Wilks said the Cardinals need to be more creative getting Johnson the ball coming forward.

There are a lot of things that need to be fixed with the Cardinals' offense. Steve Wilks noted that after Sunday's loss in Los Angeles, and he did again Monday.

Where it will start, Wilks indicated in his day-after meeting with the media, is not with a quarterback change but with a renewed emphasis on being "creative" in using star running back David Johnson.

"We talked about that," Wilks said about conversations he had with coordinator Mike McCoy and the offensive staff. "We've got to utilize David from the standpoint of getting him out of the backfield, putting him in the slot, putting him out there to try and create that matchup that we need.

"David is very effective when he is out in space, so we have to start utilizing him in those particular matters."

Wilks and McCoy also discussed scaling back the game plan each week, giving the players fewer plays to digest in an effort to prevent them from thinking too much and potentially slowing their execution.

Personnel changes are still possible, Wilks said, noting that he'd tell players Monday if there was a potential shift coming. He didn't name any specific moves, but he was asked again if he was open to starting rookie quarterback Josh Rosen over Sam Bradford. Bradford only threw for 90 yards Sunday on 17-of-27 passing.

"If I thought it was just that one position, I would be more than willing to say, 'You know what, we need to make a change, we need a spark, we need something to happen,' " Wilks said. "(But) it's not just Sam. There are numerous things that collectively we need to get better."

Offensively – and the Cardinals have scored just six points in two games and are last in the league in yards, having crossed midfield just once against the Rams Sunday – Wilks again brought up the need to get better pass protection and have receivers get off the line.

As for McCoy, Wilks was asked specifically about his confidence in the offensive coordinator.

"I have total confidence in Mike, total confidence in all the staff," Wilks said. "I'm not going to sit here and waver from what I still consider to be a great coaching staff.

"We have to find a way, players and coaches, to go out and execute."

That will start with Johnson's role. Johnson had only 14 touches for a second straight game, rushing for 48 yards on 13 carries and getting only one catch (for three yards) and only two targets in the passing game against the Rams. On the ground, Wilks noted that a lot of Johnson's yards are coming on second effort from Johnson himself after getting hit too quickly. That's where the blocking must improve.

In the passing game, Johnson has six catches on 11 targets in two games. He did have three drops in the opener, but he's only been targeted once on a pass play where he didn't line up in the backfield. According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson was used in the slot eight percent of snaps during his big 2016 season and 13 percent of the time out wide.

The Cardinals have a totally different coaching staff, but Wilks made clear getting Johnson more involved was a priority.

"You have to be able to adapt in this league, so we're looking to make changes, we're looking to make this thing better," Wilks said.


Wilks said the most serious injuries this week are defensive tackle Olsen Pierre's toe (which kept him inactive against the Rams) and linebacker Dennis Gardeck's ankle. As for the hamstring of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Wilks had measured optimism.

"We all know it's going to be tough to keep him off the field," Wilks said. "I have to help Larry help himself. That's what I did Sunday. We'll do everything we can to make sure he's ready to go (this week.)"

Some of the top images from the Cardinals' loss in Los Angeles