Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has a challenge most coaches would only wish for. He has three starting running backs in his backfield. On the other hand, he has the unenviable task of dividing one football multiple ways.
“It’s my job to get them the ball enough because they can all do different things,” Arians said.
With Chris Johnson re-signing with the Cardinals in March, the backfield tandem of David Johnson, who’s entering his second season, and Andre Ellington became a trio. All three have started for the Cardinals. All three have rushed for at least 581 yards in a season.
But with David Johnson's emergence in the final five games last year after Chris went down with a fractured tibia, he’s established himself as the Cardinals’ feature back.
“David’s earned the right now to be the bell cow,” Arians said. “Everybody’s got to take it from him. But Chris ran for 800 (yards) and probably would have had 1,200 had he stayed healthy. Andre can break the game open.”
David Johnson finished with 581 yards in his rookie season, 442 of which came in the final five games -- the third most in the NFL during that span. Chris Johnson had 814 yards, fourth most in the league at the time he went down. David Johnson is poised to be one of the top fantasy backs in drafts this summer, but will likely lose some work to Chris Johnson and even Ellington on third down. However, Ellington has struggled to stay healthy over the last few years.
RB Chris Johnson is re-signing a one-year deal with Arizona, per source.
Friday, December 4, 2015, 6:28pm
Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (toe, out) missed practice all week and is out for Week 13. With Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington both out, David Johnson should see the bulk of the touches against the Rams, who are #18 in RB aFPA. HC Bruce Arians says he could get “up to 25 touches” against the Rams, so he’s a Sneaky Start this week.
Arizona has placed Chris Johnson on the injured reserve/designated to return list, a move that means the only way the running back will play again this season is if the Cardinals reach the Super Bowl.
A person with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday that Johnson chipped or fractured his tibia where it meets his left knee. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not revealed details of the injury.
By being on the list, Johnson can't resume practice for six weeks and can't play in a game for eight weeks. This almost certainly means David Johnson is going to get a chance to have a lot more touches and could at least be the early down replacement for Chris Johnson, with Andre Ellington being involved in the passing game and as a change of pace. David Johnson has had fumbling issues during his rookie year, but does have eight TDs.
The Cardinals are "still gathering" how long this will sideline the veteran running back, according to Glazer.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said earlier in the day it was a bruised knee, but MRI results on Johnson weren't available then.
Johnson is in the midst of a strong comeback year after signing with Arizona late in training camp. He is fourth in the NFL in rushing with 814 yards.
His backup, Andre Ellington, also was hurt in the game. Arians says Ellington has turf toe.
Without Johnson and Ellington, rookie David Johnson would move into the No. 1 running back spot, the story said. David Johnson scored Arizona's first touchdown in Sunday's 19-13 victory with a 5-yard run. The rookie leads the team with eight touchdowns, but has had trouble holding onto the ball at times. If Ellington is able to go, it would likely cut into David Johnson's workload, especially in the passing game, but it's very possible David Johnson could still get enough early down work.
The resurgent season of running back Chris Johnson might be derailed for a bit after a helmet to the side of his left knee Sunday left him with a contusion and possible missed time. The Cardinals might also be missing backup Andre Ellington, who suffered a turf toe on the same possession as Johnson’s injury.
There is no official timetable for either’s return, coach Bruce Arians said Monday, but rookie David Johnson looks like the starter for now and “I have all the confidence in the world in him starting,” Arians said.
There is a chance the Cardinals would make a roster move later in the week to promote Kerwynn Williams from the practice squad to back up David Johnson and Stepfan Taylor. But Arians admitted he’d rather not make a move at this point, instead waiting to see how Chris Johnson and Ellington recover, the story said.
Doctors were also examining running back Andre Ellington on the sideline because of a foot injury.
Those still owning David Johnson may finally get to cash in on their stash. However, it remains to be seen if Chris Johnson and Ellington have to miss time. David Johnson's fantasy value would go up if one of Chris Johnson or Ellington miss Week 13, but perhaps especially Chris Johnson as David Johnson could get a bulk of the early down work.
Friday, November 27, 2015, 6:20pm
Things could begin to change Sunday versus the Cleveland Browns.
Every game, all season
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Friday there will be more in the gameplan for Ellington this week, per Darren Urban of the team's official website.
Ellington played 18 snaps in Monday night's win, but compiled just five rushes for 21 yards and three receptions. Since Week 5 -- when he returned from a knee injury suffered Week 1 -- Ellington has garnered just nine total carries in three games.
"I think BA (head coach Bruce Arians) has stuff for him and he didn't get to it, but I'm sure he'll get to it this week," offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said of Ellington. "As you saw (Monday night), there was a series where I think he pretty much was in there the whole series because he (Arians) wanted to get him going.
"He's got fresh legs, obviously."
With Johnson's resurgence, the Cardinals could ease Ellington back into the rotation and keep him as a chance-of-pace back, which best suits his skill set, the story said. He could also be more involved in the passing game. The thought all along was that David Johnson's involvement would be the one to suffer from the return of Ellington.
Cards GM Steve Keim said the one-year contract under which running back Chris Johnson is now playing is “something we will look at” in terms of a potential extension. That sounds about right — as good as Johnson has been, Keim and the Cardinals are very careful with older veterans who they have signed to one-year deals, and regardless of how well they play, the Cards will be smart with further contract offers (see Dansby, Karlos and Cromartie, Antonio.) They will have a number they are comfortable with, and if it isn’t good enough for Johnson, the Cardinals will be ready to move on. That’s the model.
Still, Johnson is tied for the second-most rushing yards in the league with 405 yards (the Bears’ Matt Forte has 438) and after not having an offseason and getting hurt (hamstring) almost as soon as he showed up to training camp, Keim noted Johnson is still on the upswing.
“Chris Johnson is just now starting to hit his stride,” Keim said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7.
With Andre Ellington active, CJ still got most of the early work and even rookie David Johnson had two in-close TD runs. Ellington's time didn't come until later in the game for the most part. The Cardinals are in a good situation here and even if they want to maintain Chris Johnson beyond this season, because it should be under their terms. David Johnson sure looks like the longer-term answer at RB and could form a nice combo with Ellington if he could just stay healthy.
Friday, October 9, 2015, 6:11pm
Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (knee, probable) took full practice reps again Friday and is probable for Week 5. Ellington will play in Week 5, though it appears that he’ll take a backseat to Chris Johnson for the time being.
Thursday, October 8, 2015, 6:11pm
Before he was injured, Cardinals RB Andre Ellington was the clear No. 1 option, while many waited to see if Chris Johnson had any game left and if David Johnson could contribute as a rookie. A month later, all three are desirable choices, but Bruce Arians isn’t hiding how he plans to divvy up the playing time.
“It’s not hard, because the young guy (David Johnson) sits down,” Arians said.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015, 6:19pm
Friday, October 2, 2015, 6:45pm
Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (knee, questionable) took limited practice reps all week and is questionable for Week 4. Ellington is expected to play per Josina Anderson but is officially a game-time decision. HC Bruce Arians expects that Chris Johnson will continue to get “15-20” touches even when Ellington returns to the fold. No word on whether this is a permanent situation, but Arians is apparently pleased with Johnson’s production this season. He has 219 yards and two touchdowns on 52 carries. The team may elect to let Ellington heal fully since they are getting good production out of the running back position without him.
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