David Johnson has had a tough season.
No one expected to see him struggle to produce with the way the offense was supposed to be about Johnson and his multi-faceted abilities.
However, while much of the blame on the season can be placed on the shoulders of Mike McCoy, his archaic running scheme and an offensive line who is not good to say the least, Johnson does hold some of the responsibility.
Through nine weeks, Johnson and the Arizona Cardinals rushing attack are struggling to gain yards after contact.
RBs on these teams are BREAKING TACKLES!#Browns #Seahawks #ChiefsKingdom #LARams #TitanUp #GoSaints #FightForEachOther #GoPats #GoNiners #BroncosCountry #InBrotherhood pic.twitter.com/JRtzmPQTfJ— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) November 13, 2018
Now, there are a couple of reasons that Johnson does not deserve too much blame.
First, McCoy’s scheme was attrocious, asking David Johnson to live in the middle of an offensive line, running the ball between the guards only, is counter productive to his skillset.
Second, even when he was running with a head full of steam, contact was being made a number of times in the backfield before Johnson could even get to a net zero gain, so his numbers are a little skewed from that.
Then there is the reality of Johnson. His running this year could be described as... careful. He doesn’t look as fast and as agile as he did in 2016, before his knee injury. However, it seems like that is starting to slowly change.
A lot of that will come to the fact that Byron Leftwich has gone back to doing what Johnson does best in the run game.
He is repaying his new offensive coordinators love too:
#AZCardinals RB David Johnson earned his highest overall grade of the season, a 74.2. He garnered an 81.3 receiving grade too. 60 of his 85 receiving yards where after the catch and 52 of his 98 rushing yards were after contact— PFF ARZ Cardinals (@PFF_Cardinals) November 12, 2018
Those are numbers we are more accustomed to seeing from David Johnson, when he is running on zone plays, his ability to make cuts and get up field, virtually gliding through the defense, helps with his yards after contact.
He’s not a power running back and that is okay... You just have to plan as such. We have seen that under Leftwich. Giving Johnson many more looks running in zone blocking schemes and also, throwing him the football.
It is a change of pace, but it will ultimately help DJ and the Cardinals.