David Johnson will be unleashed in 2019. Kliff Kingsbury made that much certain during a recent post-practice press conference.
“He’s a special talent,” the Cardinals coach said. “We feel like we have three or four (running backs) that are all really good players, but he’s a guy who, as many touches and as much as he can handle, we’d like to have him out there.”
Even though Johnson will be the bellcow, it doesn’t necessarily mean another year of sporadic playing time for the reserves behind him. In Kingsbury’s less-traditional NFL offense, any player that proves capable of being a weapon will find the field, which is a driving force this offseason for Chase Edmonds and T.J. Logan.
“He’ll find a way to get you the ball,” said Edmonds, who had 60 carries for 208 yards and two touchdowns as Johnson’s backup last year. “And that’s one thing that’s changed with me from my rookie year – my confidence in my ability. Last year I was kind of walking on eggshells, just worrying about not messing up. This year, man, I’m all about making plays. Find a way to get ‘29’ on the field and get ‘29’ the ball.”
Logan has showed off his game-changing speed in the preseason but has not translated it into regular season performance. He said learning the offense was a challenge in 2018, but the return to a familiar running scheme has him feeling comfortable.
“The zone read is definitely what I’m used to,” Logan said. “We’ve got a double team and you’re just reading the linebackers. Whatever gap the linebackers hit, you’re able to hit it backside if the D-end doesn’t pull down. When you’ve got guys like Kyler (Murray) and the other quarterbacks that can pull and take off with it, (the defensive ends) have to respect it.”
Murray’s presence should help whichever running back is in the game.
“Oh, yeah,” Edmonds said. “You already see it out there. It helps so much. That end can’t crash like the end wants to do. You have No. 1 with the ball and he’s just as dynamic as the running backs in the backfield. It’s great, because it opens up holes and space in the defense.”
Logan, who missed his rookie season due to injury, said his lack of impact last year was self-inflicted, and he’s been a man on a mission the past six months.
“At the end of the season, it clicked for me, like I needed to put more into it,” said Logan, who looks noticeably stronger this spring. “This game, you’re only going to get out what you put in. I know it’s cliché, but it’s real life. I just put a lot more in.”
Logan envisions himself as a speed back that stresses the defense, from the backfield or on jet sweeps. Edmonds had some good moments as a rookie and will aim to build on that.
The Cardinals’ lack of playmakers last year led to a moribund offense, and General Manager Steve Keim sought to rectify that by drafting three wide receivers last month.
While many believe Kingsbury will go wideout-heavy in the regular season, he has repeatedly said the offense will be based around the most effective personnel. Johnson will be one of the stars. Edmonds and Logan hope to join him.
“Me and Dave are definitely pushing for (two-back looks),” Edmonds said. “It opens up his dynamic ability and mine as well. Whether it’s two-back sets or Dave in the slot, me in the slot, it doesn’t really matter. Just find a way to get our playmakers the ball.”
Images from Wednesday's offseason work