The Arizona Cardinals will face the St. Louis Rams on Sunday with a new starting running back. Rookie David Johnson gets the nod after Chris Johnson landed on injured reserve and Andre Ellington was ruled out for this week with turf toe. Johnson, who leads all NFL rookies in touchdowns with eight, will not only get a ton of playing time, but he will also have a shot at redeeming himself against the Rams.
Johnson has been quite good so far this season in his limited action offensively. However, an early-season 24-22 loss to the Rams at home can in large part be placed on the broad shoulders of the rookie. He fumbled the opening kickoff, which gave the Rams an early 7-0 lead just a few plays later and he also dropped what would have been a touchdown pass on third down, forcing the Cardinals to kick a field goal.
The drop cost the Cards four points in a game they lost by two. The kickoff cost them seven points.
But Johnson can shed the goat label and lead the way offensively this week. Head coach Bruce Arians said Johnson would get about 25 touches in the game. This sounds an awful like the plan the Cardinals had for Andre Ellington last season and early this season until Chris Johnson took his touches away.
Carson Palmer had nothing but praise for Johnson and said "guys are excited to see him play." He even compared him to a more highly-touted rookie back whom the Cardinals will face this week -- Todd Gurley. Arizona knows all too well what Gurley brings to the table, as he rushed for 146 yards (123 on four carries) in the Rams' win in Arizona.
According to Palmer, Johnson "just runs through people and runs through arm tackles, kind of like a Todd Gurley-style runner -- fast in the open field and big and just hard to bring down."
Johnson is roughly 30 pounds bigger than Ellington and the veteran Johnson and he is almost as fast in terms of straight-line speed, although "those guys are definitely shiftier and quicker," said Palmer.
Johnson also adds an element to the passing game. "He's as natural a pass catcher as there is," Palmer said, noting Johnson's background as a receiver before being moved to running back.
Bruce Arians said Johnson "is a combination of Chris and Andre" and doesn't think he would be that much less productive than Chris Johnson has been, had he been given the touches.
This is what the Cardinals drafted David Johnson for -- to be a workload guy. Perhaps it is coming a little more quickly than some believed, but he has a chance.
Can he go from being a goat to this week's G.O.A.T? That is what we all are hoping.