As the NFL season starts to pick up, the rankings begin to roll out.
Looking at every team’s run game, NFL.com analyst Maurice Jones-Drew took a crack at ranking what he thinks are the top starting running backs heading into the 2019-20 season.
And while MJD didn’t entirely miss the boat — Saquon Barkley and Alvin Kamara are solid choices at Nos. 1 and 2 following last season — the former Jaguars running back-turned-analyst had some questionable choices regarding other backs in the league.
Especially when talking Arizona Cardinals RB David Johnson.
The only issue is that Kingsbury’s track record shows he won’t be running the ball much in his “Air Raid” offense. Johnson is a tremendous talent and could be used in the pass game out of the backfield and in the slot, but my guess is the Cards won’t be leaning on the running game.
While the “Air Raid” screams pass, head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s run game while at Texas Tech still played a factor in the the team’s success.
In fact, only the 2016 season saw the run game produce less than 1,000 yards in a season.
Former Texas Tech running back DeAndre Washington is another prime example of the potential Johnson can have in Kingsbury’s system.
Washington was the lead back for the Red Raiders, accumulating back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, with his best year coming in 2015. He finished the year with 1,492 yards and 14 scores, up 12 from the previous season, on 233 attempts. Washington also made 41 catches for 385 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 6.4 yards a carry in 13 games played.
Adding to that, Johnson seems to be onboard with the new system.
“It’s been a tough couple of years, but I feel like this offense will revamp what I can do, my skillset,” Johnson told Good Morning Football earlier in June. “There are a lot of good running backs in the league, but I think I’m going to have to take the one for the best.”
That doesn’t sound like a running back being asked to take a backseat.
And while the Kingsbury’s offense is still evolving, there seems to be a plan, or at least a threshold, in terms of Johnson’s carries.
“David could have a pretty extensive role in this offense and we want him fresh and at his best, whether it be asking him to carry it 35 times a game or catch 10 passes,” Kingsbury said when asked about dividing up running plays during Cardinals minicamp. “We just have to see how the numbers shake out.”
For the Cardinals, Johnson provides an added weapon out of the backfield and in the passing game.
His 2016 totals prove that as he racked up a combined 20 touchdowns — 16 on the ground — and a league-leading 2,118 yards.
Even in a down 2018 season, Johnson still compiled more than 1,300 yards from scrimmage, scoring 10 times. Looking a the league as a whole, Johnson came in tied for 16th, ahead of numerous running backs ranked higher on MJD’s list, including Chris Carson, Adrian Peterson, Nick Chubb and Jordan Howard.
And with a rookie quarterback at the helm, don’t be surprised to see Johnson’s usage increase in 2019.