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"Rejuvenated" David Johnson Wants The Work

Leading NFL with 1,122 all-purpose yards, running back welcomes heavy workload

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Cardinals running back David Johnson leads the NFL with 1,122 all-purpose yards.


David Johnson and his wife, Meghan, spent the bye weekend in New York. They walked through Central Park, visited the zoo, took in the musical "Matilda," and even a show by the Blue Man Group.

The running back may have been among the most used players in the first half of the NFL season, but he acknowledged the first eight games were more taxing mentally than physically.

"It was good to get away a little bit and relax," Johnson said Tuesday, after the Cardinals' first post-practice bye. "Now it's back to football."

Johnson has been the linchpin of the Cardinals' offense this season. He was always going to be the focal point, but

after amassing 1,122 yards rushing and receiving, coach Bruce Arians acknowledged he's turned to Johnson more than he had anticipated.

"Hell yeah," Arians said. "Without (the injured) Chris Johnson, for sure. We are trying to monitor the next few weeks so he can make it all the way through and get Andre (Ellington) some more touches."

The workload doesn't bother David Johnson, not on a physical level. He looks back on his December run as a rookie and sees little difference in how he was handled then and how he has been handled now. The numbers bear that out – Johnson has averaged 23.9 touches a game this season, compared to the 23.3 he averaged during four December games last season.

His production has gotten even better, however. His total yards lead the NFL, and his 705 yards rushing is fourth in the NFL (to go with his 35 catches for another 407 yards).

"I feel like I'm still young," Johnson said. "I can take a lot of the contact and my body can rejuvenate by the next

week."

The bye still did Johnson's body good. There is no denying that, nor can it be denied that the Cardinals' offense figures to be impacted by the loss of left tackle Jared Veldheer. With Veldheer out with a triceps injury, the inexperienced John Wetzel takes over, and the Cardinals may have to turn even more often to the running game.

Ellington could see more time, but then again, even when Chris Johnson was healthy he wasn't seeing a ton of snaps. It's hard to want to take David Johnson off the field, he is so effective.

Arians wants improvements still, like in blitz pickup or in some of Johnson's route running. But even Arians acknowledged he might need to lighten up.

"I forget sometimes and criticize him -- because he is a second-year player -- because he is so damn talented," Arians said. "When you leave yards out on the field, especially big yards … He is continuing to grow and hopefully he has learned from that and we won't have those in the second half of the season."

The second half begins Sunday against the worst run defense in the NFL and the same defense against which Johnson ran for a season-high 157 yards in early October. This may not be the week to be careful with carries.

Then again, Johnson isn't afraid of a heavy load.

"I love getting the ball, I love getting the touches," Johnson said. "It doesn't matter to me."

Images of Cardinals RB David Johnson's top plays during the first half of the 2016 season



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