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David Johnson Ready For Trips Into Space

Notes: Wetzel to start at right tackle; Golden, Gresham get closer to returning

Running back David Johnson carries the ball against the Rams last weekend in Los Angeles.
Running back David Johnson carries the ball against the Rams last weekend in Los Angeles.

David Johnson smiled, because when the head coach has come out and said they want to get the ball more to their star running back – and be creative when doing it – there really would be no other reaction.

"I 100 percent agree with what he is saying," Johnson said. "I love having the ball in my hands, being out in space and being utilized in that way."

But Johnson never lobbied for anything. Coach Steve Wilks made that clear, noting that "those kinds of things never come from him." Even Friday, as Johnson talked about his potential new usage following two games and a total of 28 touches, he said he was fine waiting to see whatever the coaches wanted him to do and that offensive coordinator Mike McCoy "knows what to do."

 "For me I feel like the coaches will figure out ways to win," Johnson said. "They are in the NFL for a reason. They will figure out ways to utilize not just me but Fitz and other weapons."

On the young season, Johnson has 22 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown, and six receptions for 33 yards.

For all the issues the Cardinals' offense might have right now, Wilks said he believes upping Johnson's production alone could make a huge difference.

"We've seen that in previous times with him," Wilks said. "I keep saying it but it's true, this league is all about matchups. We've got to be able to find that particular matchup on each play."

Johnson acknowledged the Cardinals are using him differently than 2016, simply because there are different coaching staffs and different offensive schemes. He noted he has been split outside as a receiver less often, something Wilks said he wanted to change going forward.

In terms of matchups, however, Johnson interestingly said it probably behooved him to come out of the backfield on passing plays.

"It's about the same, but coming out of backfield, I feel like more likely to have a linebacker on me," Johnson said.


Wilks said he didn't want to talk negatively about quarterback Sam Bradford, and he also made it clear when asked about a potential appearance by rookie quarterback Josh Rosen that the best scenario would be for the Cardinals to play better and keep the status quo behind center.

"I would love for (Josh) to be able to sit back and learn and grow, and for Sam to continue to perform and get this offense going," Wilks said.


Starting right tackle Andre Smith (elbow) practiced this week but suffered a setback after Thursday's work, so he did not practice Friday and was ruled out for Sunday. It means John Wetzel will start there for a second straight week, and face star Bears defensive end Khalil Mack.

Pro Football Focus rates Wetzel as the best Cardinals' offensive lineman thus far this season, allowing one pressure on 70 pass-blocking snaps.

"It's not just one guy," Wilks said. "We have to make sure we help him out, particularly this week with the caliber of player they have on that side of the football."


Officially, defensive end Markus Golden and tight end Jermaine Gresham are questionable to play Sunday after their months of rehab, but both practiced fully all week and Wilks sounded optimistic about their availability.

Linebacker Dennis Gardeck (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis. He joins other questionable Cardinals in wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and safety Rudy Ford (ankle). Ford was downgraded to DNP Friday; Wilks said earlier in the week Fitzgerald would play against Chicago.

In addition to Smith, defensive tackle Olsen Pierre (toe) is out again. For the Bears, defensive backs Marcus Cooper (hamstring) and DeAndre Houston-Carson (forearm) are out.

Images of this week's opponent, the Chicago Bears