The rookie running back looked very good with limited touches, and even with the talent easy to see – and the fans clamoring for more – Bruce Arians was simply not going to increase the back’s workload too far, too fast. Eventually, in 2013, Andre Ellington was allowed to do more.
David Johnson, the Cardinals’ current rookie running back, has been spectacular in his brief and sheltered NFL career. In two games – and with only nine touches – Johnson has three touchdowns, including a franchise-record 108-yard kickoff return and a 55-yard
reception. The small sample size has produced 8.4 yards a carry, and 75.5 yards per kickoff return.
But like Ellington – and Arians acknowledged his handling of Johnson and Ellington is “very similar” – Johnson’s role will likely continue to be limited. In 2013, Ellington played behind veteran Rashard Mendenhall. In 2015, Johnson is behind veteran Chris Johnson – and when Ellington returns from his knee injury, he too will jump ahead of the rookie.
None of this is a surprise.
“I definitely talked to Andre a lot about what he did his rookie year,” David Johnson said. “He said the same thing: Be patient and it will come to me. B.A. knows exactly what he wants out of the team.”
Arians said last week he wants his rookies to earn their playing time. Then someone like David Johnson comes up with multiple explosive plays, and it seems counterintuitive to leave such ability on the bench, the story said. The story went on to say the reasoning isn’t about rookie versus veteran, necessarily. It’s a very real concern that too much responsibility would slow Johnson down – especially after Johnson missed a chunk of training camp with a hamstring injury. Pass protection was specifically mentioned, and always seems to come up with rookie RBs. Like Johnson, fantasy owners will have to be patient, too.