For decades, it seems the Arizona Cardinals have struggled to find quality running backs. This year they seem to have three. With Andre Ellington seemingly set to play this week, joining Chris Johnson and rookie David Johnson in the backfield.
That's a lot of backs who can make plays. Andre Ellington joked that, with so many weapons in the backfield who can contribute, "it's like BA is playing Madden."
Quarterback Carson Palmer said he "hasn't been a part" of a team with this much running back talent.
"There's three starters," he said to reporters. "Each guy could be the bell cow and get 25+ touches a game. With all three healthy, I don't really see that happening, but they are all very special, very unique and very talented."
So how do they compare in terms of skill set?
If you ask Ellington, "David's the youngest, I'm a little bit older than him and Chris is older than us. That's how we separate."
That's not terribly helpful, is it? It appears Ellington is not willing to say who does which thing better.
Palmer elaborated on the different abilities of each.
On Chris Johnson:
"I think Chris is so good at putting his foot in the ground and getting north and staying skinny through holes," he said. "He plays with so much speed in his cuts. I think that's one of his greatest assets. He's a great protector and really, really smart."
Palmer raved about how quickly he picked up the offense and how good he is at protections and reading defenses.
What about Ellington?
"Andre is a dual threat," Palmer explained. "He's as good a receiver as he is a back. He's got a really good sense for open field moves. He can put his foot in the ground like Chris, but he also can just shake somebody down in the middle of the field. He's so quick and elusive and he's got breakaway speed."
And the rookie Johnson?
"Dave, we're still finding out," he explained. "He'sasked to do more and more each week. I think he can run with power. He's obviously fast. He's pulled away from a lot of people. He catches it pretty good and runs pretty good routes. He's a lot like Chris and Dre, but I think he's got probably 35 more pounds on him than they do, so he's a little more of a bruising back that can run north and south and run with his pads low."
Bruce Arians said the key with guys is know what they are most comfortable with and what they do best. With Chris Johnson, he knew he would do well at many of the things the Cards do in the running game.
Specifically, "the zone plays and the hard dive plays are what he's really good at," Arians said.
As an observer myself, something noticeable is how much better Johnson can produce with bigger formations -- two and three tight ends -- than Ellington. Ellington likes things spread out and is very effective that way. As Palmer said, Johnson can "stay skinny" and produce positive plays with bigger players on the field.
The trick with all three players is finding playing time for all three.
Or is it?
Arians made it sound like it will mostly be two players. When asked about getting talented players time on the field, he said, "it's not hard because the young guy sits down."
Think of the Week 1 game against the Saints. David Johnson barely played. He still made an impact.
So it would appear that, barring injury, against the Lions it will be the Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson show.
As we have seen so far, we think that's a pretty good show to watch.