After the end of the 2016 season, not much had gone right for the Arizona Cardinals. Except for David Johnson that is.
When it was all said and done Johnson had posted one of the greatest statistical seasons in Cardinals history:
293 carries 1,239 yards 16 touchdowns
80 catches 879 yards 4 touchdowns
In total Johnson had 373 touches for 2,118 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Those are staggering.
There is always concern that comes with that though. Will there be a drop off? Was the workload too much? Is Johnson due for a dropoff in 2017?
Only four players before Johnson had ever gone over 293 carries and 80 catches in a season, let’s take a look at each players next season to get an idea of what we can expect for David Johnson.
James Wilder, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1984 - Wilder carried the ball 407 times for 1544 yards and 13 touchdowns and caught 85 passes for 685 yards and no touchdowns in the ‘84 season with the Bucs.
The next season, Wilder still put up good numbers, but there was a dropoff:
365 carries 1,300 yards 10 touchdowns
53 catches 341 yards 0 touchdowns
Wilder’s numbers went down across the board the next season in ‘85, but he was still a good player. The problem was, it continued to go down every season and he was never the same player again.
Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams, 2006 - Cardinals fans remember ‘06 Jackson. He carried the ball 346 times for 1,528 yards and 13 touchdowns, but also caught 90 passes for 806 yards and three touchdowns.
2007 was another story as Jackson battled injuries, only played in 12 games and finished with:
237 carries 1002 yards 5 touchdowns
38 catches 271 yards 1 touchdown
Jackson wouldn’t get back over 300 carries until 2009, but he’d never match his receiving total, or come close again, finishing 2009 with 51 catches, the second highest in his career.
He made Pro Bowls in 2006, 2009 and 2010, but never quite reached the heights of 2006 again.
Marshall Faulk, Indianapolis Colts/St. Louis Rams, 1998
Faulk was with the Colts in 1998 when he put up this absurd season:
324 carries 1,319 yards 6 touchdowns
86 catches 908 yards 4 touchdowns
The next season all Faulk did was go for 1000/1000, lead the NFL in yards from scrimmage and score 12 touchdowns with the Rams as an All-Pro.
In 2000 he went for over 2000 total yards again and 26 touchdowns and in 2001, his last truly great year, he went for over 2000 total yards and 21 touchdowns.
Faulk was the same age as David Johnson and had been used more, but he continued to play at a special level for three years after his absurd 1998.
LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers, 2003
While Tomlinson’s biggest workload of a season was not ‘03 with 413 total touches, 313 carries and 100 catches, it was the only season where he eclipsed 80 or more catches. Although in 2002 he had 372 carries and 79 catches, so it really should count still.
He also had seven seasons of 300 or more carries and caught over 50 passes in each of those season.
What I am saying is, Tomlinson and Faulk are the blueprint for the workhorse back who does it for more than one big season.
If David Johnson is special, he will be able to follow up 2016 with the same type of numbers in 2017.
If he is just super human, than he’ll see a small decline in 2017 before a bigger decline in the seasons after.
We won’t know for sure what Johnson is, but from his first two seasons, I wouldn’t doubt he is special.