David Johnson is a bruising 224 pounds, but he was skinny growing up, which is why the Cardinals’ star has moves in his arsenal that befit a smaller running back.
That style won’t be leaving any time soon, as the juke and jump-cuts have helped Johnson become one of the top skill players in the NFL. However, Johnson has made it a point to incorporate some more “big back” tactics of late, showing a greater willingness to shoulder through defenders instead of going around them.
“(Running backs coach) Kirby (Wilson) has been on me a lot more now about being more downhill, and not bouncing so much of the runs,” Johnson said. “Maybe those 1-yarders, make them three. That will open up and put more confidence in the offensive line, the offensive coordinator. Seeing me run the ball and try to ground and pound it, lowering the shoulder, will hopefully put more confidence in everyone else, and I think it did (Sunday against the Chiefs).”
Johnson still prefers his devastating jump-cut, which has left many defenders grasping at air over the years. In tight quarters, though, Johnson is learning to truck forward. Those runs may not be long ones, but the extra few yards can put the offense in a better position than trying for the home run.
“It’s definitely something that’s not natural for me,” Johnson said. “I’m a guy that likes creating moves by making jukes and jump-cutting. It’s definitely a work-in-progress, but Kirby, he’s helping out a lot.”
Johnson likes the idea of being physical with defensive backs to set up juke moves later.
“I’ve talked to a lot of DBs, and when they think you’re about to run them over, they duck their heads a little bit more, close their eyes,” Johnson said. “I think it does help out.”