The Cardinals’ off-season has been rolling along at high speed with no major roadblocks or snags, until today, when RB David Johnson decided to stay home during the team’s mandatory minicamp.
Last year for 15 2/3 games the Cardinals had to get used to playing without Johnson who had come into camp vowing to Cardinals’ fans and his flock of Fantasy Football fans that he was going to rush for well over 1,000 yards and catch for over 1,000 yards.
Steve Wilks took the high road today and was adamant that his focus is on getting the players who are in camp stronger and better than they were yesterday. The media tried to get Wilks to speak hypothetically about any player who misses time---and good for the Cardinals and Wilks---he did not take the bait.
But, for Wilks, the honest answer is that David Johnson’s absence stinks. The timing of it stinks. The selfishness of it stinks. Yes, selfishness. There are other players in contract years, but they are sucking it up. Markus Golden had his best year in 2016, as did Johnson, and 12.5 sacks is nothing to sneeze at---but Golden is in camp.
At this point, we don’t know as of yet is how far apart Johnson, his agent and the Cardinals are on a new contract. But----if David Johnson is holding out for Le’Veon Bell money he is purely delusional. Johnson spoke openly and freely last year about how the market for Bell would shape his deal. Sure, Johnson was coming off an outstanding year---but---one outstanding year shouldn’t be a ticket to the top salary at his position or any position.
Having been knocked out of his last two games has to be a concern---Johnson’s upright running style and the intense pressure, torque and stress he loads on this knees by slaloming around defenders instead of trying to run them over is a cause for concern.
Plus, after being pampered all last training camp by the previous coaching staff and being told lavishly by them that he’s a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame, Johnson looked very tentative at Detroit and he was getting hammered to the point of fumbling the ball twice and turning the momentum of the game clearly in favor of the Lions.
Teams will have a plan for Johnson just as the Lions did---they will know where he is vulnerable and they will be gunning for him. Yes, they will be wary of his breakaway speed, but they will do everything in their power to box him in. Johnson will find some ways to counter, but if he thinks he can just show up and rack up well over 2,000 yards of offense, he doesn’t understand how this league works.
There is no question that David Johnson is about as physically gifted as they come. But part of what made him so successful in 2016 was his down-to-earth humbleness and eagerness to do his job. But, now it seems like he’s of a vastly different mindset---he’s still chirping about the 1,000/1,000 goals every time he’s interviewed---which some fans don’t seem to mind, but old coaches like myself would rather he simply talk about the team doing whatever it takes to win.
You’d think Johnson would learn from the guy a few lockers down, a teammate named Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is heading to the Hall of Fame, but you won’t find him talking about personal goals---all Larry talks about is doing whatever he can to help the team win. Fitz is not going to come out this year and say his goals are 100 catches, 1.500 yards and 14 TDs.
Now---if Johnson wants a new deal like the one Devonta Freeman got last year (5 years @ $41.25M with $17.5M in fully guaranteed money with another $5M in attainable guarantees)_ which would make Johnson the 2nd highest paid RB in the league---then fine---get it done.
But, the fact that the sides are apart is a strong indication that Johnson has higher numbers in mind---and that’s where---coming off a year-long stay on the IR and having only turned in one outstanding season to date, whereas Le’Veon Bell has three outstanding seasons and has been an All-Pro three times---that’s where David Johnson is being---not only delusional, but perfectly unreasonable.
And as for Sam Bradford saying today “I’m not worried about David Johnson at all,” there was a missed opportunity to step up as a leader and may be the very reason why Bradford has never won over an organization. Guess getting paid means more than being with the team during mandatory minicamp, right Sam?