David Johnson was banged up going into Sunday’s game against the New York Giants, but the running back, coach Kliff Kingsbury said, is a “warrior” and that’s why he briefly played in the game.
“He wanted to see – we wanted to see – if he could go,” Kingsbury said Monday after the Cardinals’ 27-21 win over the Giants. “After the first few plays, it didn’t feel right, we knew it didn’t look right, and we got him out. He was still in an emergency (backup role) for us because that’s all we had (on the roster). You’ve got to give him a lot of credit for trying to give it a go.”
Johnson played the first two plays, carrying once for two yards, and then later had one more snap. Otherwise, Chase Edmonds manned the running back spot the entire game, setting career-highs with 126 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
Johnson’s limited workload led to a two-fold storyline. One was the upset fantasy football crowd – “I respect that, I used to play, I get that it’s a great game, glad they are passionate about it, but we have to do what’s best for the player and his safety,” Kingsbury said – and the other was the Cardinals’ uncertain running back corps going forward.
Johnson did not further aggravate the ankle problem, Kingsbury said, but remains day-to-day. The third running back on the roster, D.J. Foster, missed the game because of a hamstring injury and is also day-to-day.
With that, the Cardinals are bringing in veteran running backs for workouts, reportedly Jay Ajayi and Spencer Ware among them. Kingsbury confirmed the team is looking at running backs because of the situation with Johnson and Foster.
“We bring guys continuously throughout the season to take a look, and this is no different,” Kingsbury said.
If Johnson remains limited or even sidelined, Edmonds will continue to play a big role. The second-year man is fourth in the NFL with 5.6 yards per carry, and that included Edmonds’ last seven carries for a net of minus-9 yards as the Giants teed off against the run in the rainstorm.
Kingsbury said the Giants knew how hard it was going to be to pass the ball – the Cardinals attempted just four second-half passes, completing two – and that was easy to see as the Cards made life miserable for Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, who was passing almost every down late.
Edmonds now has 287 yards rushing this season, behind Johnson’s 300 on the team. The duo has combined for 1,002 rushing and receiving yards thus far, and the Cardinals have turned into a team that has effectively run the ball as Kingsbury’s offense finds its NFL footing.
“I always want more,” Edmonds said. “My cup's never full. That's what Larry (Fitzgerald) always taught us. I always want more and will go back to the drawing board to find ways to get better.”
Kingsbury had said after the previous game against the Falcons that he hadn’t know Edmonds had gotten only one second-half touch and that Edmonds needed the ball more often. That happened in New York, albeit out of necessity.
“He did a great job,” Kingsbury said. “He continues to earn more and more reps, the way he practices, and when he gets opportunities in a game, he’s making big plays. He does everything right. You like to see guys like that have success.”
The Cardinals may need to continue to lean on Edmonds, depending on Johnson’s status, although Kingsbury said an absent Johnson impacts the game plan.
“We’ll have to adjust some things knowing the running back depth,” Kingsbury said. “Maybe not as much two-back. You want to make sure whoever that back is, he’s healthy, so we’ll have to be smart with personnel groups and how we’re rotating guys.”
Wide receiver Christian Kirk (ankle) is also day-to-day is his comeback, and Kingsbury said the Cardinals will monitor him, but the coach also added ankle injuries can linger. Kirk has now missed three games. …
Edmonds acknowledged he was, as the punt protector, at fault on the Giants’ blocked punt. As good of a game as he had, he said that play stayed with him even after he went to bed, upset he didn’t make the play.