Cardinals running back David Johnson races for the end zone during his 25-yard scoring screen pass during Sunday's win over Washington.
The Cardinals have not met expectations this season. But David Johnson certainly has.
There was so much big talk about the running back in the offseason, much of it coming from General Manager Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians, that was filled with lofty goals and name-dropping comparisons. Sure, he was always going to be the starter, and yes, he was excellent in December of his rookie season.
But it's possible that Johnson not only has met expectations but exceeded them, 12 games into the season.
"I do have good satisfaction in fulfilling the main things coaches ask of me," Johnson said Monday, after anchoring the Cardinals' offense in Sunday's win with 175 total yards and two touchdowns. "But the little things eat at me. I missed a blitz, it was on third down too and we didn't get it. It feels good to succeed and make those marks, but those little things
eat at me."
Johnson remains humble, and it's important to him he doesn't change. But he's putting up statistics that would let him if he wanted.
He surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark Sunday, now with 1,005 on the season – the Cards' first 1,000-yard rusher since Beanie Wells in 2011. His 15 total touchdowns are tied for second in franchise history; He needs two to tie the 17 John David Crow scored in 1962.
He has 64 receptions for another 704 yards, and don't think the 296 receiving yards he needs in his last four games are far from his mind. He knows only two players have ever had a 1,000-1,000 season – Roger Craig in 1985 and Marshall Faulk in 1999.
"I am definitely trying to be one of those guys," Johnson said. "Not many have done it. For me to be a thousand in both would show I am a dual threat in both, that I don't just run the ball."
Not that there ever has been much of a question about that.
Keim, during his appearance on Arizona Sports Monday morning, once again raved about Johnson's athleticism. He said he's made great strides in becoming a natural runner, and as a pass catcher, his instincts are obvious.
"To some degree, we are getting spoiled," Keim said.
Quarterback Carson Palmer called Johnson the best player in the league. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said he is the NFL's MVP, although Arians acknowledged that realistically, that would be difficult.
"We need to win more games for that to happen," Arians said. "The MVP doesn't come from a team that's .500. But he's playing like it."
He doesn't necessarily sound like it. Keim praised Johnson's combination of work ethic and humility. That doesn't mean Johnson knows there is a fine line to walk in that regard. If he's asked in an interview, for instance, if he thinks he can exploit a mismatch against a linebacker – or if he can reach the 1,000-1,000 club – he'll express confidence.
But he's not going to showboat after a score. He's definitely not going to trash talk. That makes little sense to him.
"I've always been quiet," Johnson said. "I get tired talking. Why do people talk (on the field)? There's a game going on, you burn so much energy playing, you don't need to talk. Especially since I am trying to get back to the huddle and take a rest. I'm not going to sit there and talk and waste time."
His play is going to do the talking anyway. That was the expectation coming in, and why his teammates love helping his historical season unfold.
"Let him do his thing," tackle D.J. Humphries said. "I'll do all the yelling and screaming, and just let him do him. If that's what he's gotta do to keep scoring touchdowns like that, let him be quiet. I'll do all the yelling for him."
CARDINALS FAIRLY HEALTHY AFTER GAME
Arians said the Cardinals came out "pretty clean" Sunday. A couple who were banged up might miss Wednesday's practice, but that wasn't for certain. …
Tyrann Mathieu's status for the game against the Dolphins is unclear, Arians said, after the safety missed the Washington game with his bad shoulder.
Some of the best images from the Week 13 game against the Redskins