The race at running back

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2015 – 9:30 am

So now Chris Johnson joins the Cardinals and the team did not get rid of a running back as he walked in the door. It’s a crowded backfield. For the record, the Cards now have Andre Ellington, two Johnsons — David and Chris — Kerwynn Williams, Stepfan Taylor, Marion Grice, Robert Hughes and Paul Lasike.

Johnson — the new one — only signed a one-year contract. He becomes the latest in a line of vets who were wooed by GM Steve Keim for the chance at getting a shot on a good team to revive their contract worth. Frostee Rucker. Matt Shaughnessy. Karlos Dansby. Eric Winston. Antonio Cromartie. LaMarr Woodley. Jermaine Gresham. Even Lyle Sendlein.¬†Johnson reportedly will only make the minimum salary too, unless he rushes for at least 1,300 yards (which a back has never reached since the team moved to Arizona.)

What does all that mean? Well, for starters, if Johnson doesn’t work out the way the Cardinals want through the rest of the preseason, he can be released without much impact on the salary cap ($400,000 is guaranteed.) More likely he’ll simply be part of the rotation. If I had to guess right now, the Cardinals will keep five running backs. Ellington will be the starter. The two Johnsons will be there. After that? I’d think there would be one between Hughes and Lasike as the “big” back — Hughes has the inside track there — and one among Taylor, Williams and Grice. Taylor is good on special teams, and Williams’ game is similar to Ellington’s and Chris Johnson’s (plus, he could go on the practice squad if necessary.)

As for the desire to pick up a veteran and supplanting a recent draft pick, this too is something Keim has already done. The Cardinals drafted inside linebacker Kevin Minter in 2013 in the second round and turned around and signed Dansby just couple weeks later, and Dansby’s play left Minter on the bench all season. Now, David Johnson may have the same thing with Chris Johnson. For Keim, it’s about what the Cardinals can do this year.


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36 Responses to “The race at running back”

  1. By erik on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    Love it! I think Hughes and Taylor should be the other two kept. They are good on special teams, and provide a change of pace if they are used. Williams does not really impress me much. PS would be a good place for him.

  2. By krehbieo14 on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    Hi Darren-

    When do you think we can expect to see C. Johnson in preseason action? Thanks.

  3. By Darren Urban on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    Kerh —

    RE: CJ

    I wouldn’t expect him before the Oakland game at the earliest.

  4. By joe67 on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    I hope they keep Stephan Taylor.

  5. By Scott H on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    We know what Ellington can do, when he’s healthy. We know what Chris Johnson HAS done ( and it’s a pretty impressive resume, for the most part ). We have no idea what David Johnson can do but we better have some idea pretty damn soon.

    After that? Wow….this is a pretty non-descript group.

  6. By tkm on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    i almost think ray rice as better option,if we take the negative,he is more powerful than cj and would give us a bull in short yardage

  7. By Whitey on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    The Cards only keep 4 running backs on their 53 man roster. My guess is they keep Andre, Chris and David Johnson and Robert Hughes. Kerwynn, Lasike and Grice should all be practice squad eligible I believe, so they probably sneak one or two to the PS.

    Taylor really hasn’t done much to impress me, and his time has probably come.
    If he doesn’t get picked up by someone else he could be added later if there is an injury.

  8. By Patrick Hoog aka DTL on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    Good post, Kyle had good info too. We could actually end up loaded at RB. Keim, lol.

  9. By Patrick Hoog aka DTL on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    Did my 53, had 5 RB, 5 TE, 9 DL, 57 total….oops.

  10. By Scott H on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    tkm –

    It will be interesting to see what happens with Rice. I have to wonder if any team is going to touch him with the public relations nightmare that is likely to follow for any team that does.

    I think the video of what happened in that elevator ( and Rice dragging that girl’s unconscious body down the hall ) and the extent to which we saw it over and over and over just doomed him forever. And it probably should.

    Interesting, isn’t it? Without that video and maybe only a description of what happened in the elevator, Rice might still be a Raven and he might have been back on the field by now. Without the visual….maybe a lot of people just can’t connect with how horrible it really was. And consequently, maybe a lot of people are willing to forgive him.

    But after that video… Would you REALLY want to see him with the Cardinals right now??? I would NOT. No way.

  11. By Marlin on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    Ellington, C. Johnson, D. Johnson, Hughes

  12. By Scott H on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    If this helps anyone, here is CJ’s last 3 seasons.

    2012 – 276 carries, 1343 yds, 4,5 yds per carry, 6 TD’s, 232 yds receiving

    2013 – 279 carries, 1077 yds, 3.9 yds per carry, 6 TD’s, 345 yds receiving, with 4 more TD’s receiving ( 10 TD’s total )

    2014 – 155 carries, 663 yds, 4,3 yds per carry, 1 TD, 151 yds receiving, 1 TD receiving

    Take from that what you will. His numbers in 2012 & 2013 show he is still capable of being quite productive.

    2014? OK. But do those numbers indicate that HE fell off significantly from his previous years, or do they indicate what his situation was with a bad team and a lousy QB? The Jets also had a nice alternative in Chris Ivory, who is more suited to be a goal-line back. Again, it ain’t CJ’s fault he isn’t Jerome Bettis.

    Also consider this – CJ was probably less than thrilled about how he was used by the Jets last year. But does anyone remember him making a public fuss about it or having any LeGarrette Blount-like tantrums? I don’t.

    He clearly recognized the Cardinals as the best opportunity HE had right now. He’s not here for the money. I think he’s here to have a shot at proving he still has something to offer and, ideally – a chance to win.

    When ya put it all on the scale….what’s not to like? This is a total no-risk, high-reward situation for the Cardinals. And I think the ceiling on the reward side could be VERY high.

    If NOTHING else, having him here prevents a repeat of last year where we are high and dry with no Ellington at some point and NOTHING behind him.

  13. By CaliCard on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    Sorry Daren

    I know you are in the dark like the rest of us, but I need to ask, what is going on with D.Washington. We all realize something had to go wrong for him not to have been reinstated by now. It might be silly but we the Cardinal fans invest so much emotion into our team, I would hope the Cardinal brass would be more considerate of their fan base. One would have to be extremely naive to believe a multi hundred million dollar enterprise like the Arizona Cardinals does not have means to get the answers as to what transpired with D.Washington.

  14. By Darren Urban on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    Cali (and everyone for that matter) —

    RE: Emotions/consideration/DWash

    If the Cardinals knew exactly what was going on — and I’m not saying they do — they can’t make the information public anyway. The CBA prohibits it. The current issue is between the league and Daryl Washington. If the Cardinals went public with something, the union would be up in arms and the franchise could and likely would be punished — which I would assume, as a fan, you wouldn’t want.

    Secondly, I think anyone assuming he’s going to be back anytime soon is worrying for no reason. He clearly is not. I find it hard to believe the NFL is just going to sit on his case. So you have to ask yourself, rationally, why would he not yet be reinstated?

    Finally, and I know this ticks off some fans, but invested emotionally (and financially) or not, fans do not have the right to know everything. That’s just reality. This is a case where I’m sure we are all interested to know. But if something comes out, it comes out. I don’t know when that will be. I do know that anyone leaking this at this point is risking something severe — unless it was Washington himself — and I don’t see any info coming.

  15. By Cody Zarr on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    Look at Robert Hughes standing next to those big dudes makin’ them look little. It looks like he ate a lineman for breakfast lol.

  16. By Big Ken on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    Hughes in goal line situations makes sense, just don’t ask him to catch a pass.

  17. By Scott H on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    This thing with Washington is this year’s version of what we went through with Abraham last year. Something was clearly going on and something was clearly not right. All we knew was he wasn’t here and we had no idea if he was ever gonna be here. And we were mostly in the dark about that, too. Whether it was for the same reason…who knows? I get what Darren is saying about fans not having a right to know just because they think they do. I don’t like being on the fan side of that, but….I get it.

    This thing has been rather foreboding all along. And everything Darren is saying just seems to confirm that there is no end to this in sight.

  18. By Credit Card on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    Interesting pick-up with Chris Johnson. I do not know his heath issue(s), but I was hoping the Cards would pick-up Knownshawn Moreno. Tough kid with a passion for the game. Chris Johnson has more talent, than Moreno, but also has external luggage.

    The Card’s left side of the line is impressive. The right side is untested. I’m sure defense coordinators will be attacking the right side of the line. In summary, the running backs might still be fighting just to get to the line of scrimmage — if the right side falters.

    On another issue, logical response to D Washington, Darren. I also presumed because of the lack of information from the Cards, league or player’s association — there must be something much deeper that what ha been reported. Washington very well might no longer be welcomed back into the NFL.

  19. By sbrown on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    re: Whitey and Patrick Hoog…

    last two seasons BA has kept 5 RB’s on his 53 man roster.

    2013 – Mendenhall, R. Williams, Taylor, A. Smith, Ellington

    2014 – Ellington, Taylor, K. Williams, Hughes, Grice ( note Dwyer was released and also had Bauman on the squad during the season ).

    2015 – ?? we have eight in camp now, I think could keep either Hughes or even Lasike, as the blocking back / special team player. So one of those, would have four others, IMO Ellington, C. Johnson, K. Williams and D. Johnson could make the final ( if no other injury problems ).

  20. By Jason on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    Big Ken,
    For a “FB” Hughes is very reliable catching out of the back field IMO. I know he is not considered a FB but I consider his role as bitz pickups and screens more than anything.

  21. By Big Ken on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    Anybody see the video of the practice scrimmage brawl with the Cowboys and the Rams? Ridiculous! You really have to give BA a lot of kudos when he absolutely no practice fights.

  22. By Adam on Aug 18, 2015 | Reply

    Where is Washington, is he even practicing or is he barred from even coming to training camp?


  23. By Darren Urban on Aug 19, 2015 | Reply

    Adam —

    RE: Washington

    He is suspended indefinitely. That means he cannot have contact with the team.

  24. By Steve on Aug 19, 2015 | Reply

    Darren: if you had to put some $$$ down on who would win a 100 yd sprint between J.J, Smokey and Chris Johnson, whom would you choose?

  25. By Darren Urban on Aug 19, 2015 | Reply

    Steve —

    RE: Race

    No idea. Haven’t seen Johnson sprint yet.

  26. By Cardman on Aug 19, 2015 | Reply

    Of course, fans don’t have a right to know “everything”. That is a strawman argument. The question is whether or not fans should know if their players are going to be out there on the field for the coming year. Now why in the world would some fans think they have the right to such information? Perhaps it has something to do with their tax dollars subsidizing stadiums and average ticket prices exceeding a 100 dollars.

  27. By Darren Urban on Aug 19, 2015 | Reply

    Cardman —

    RE: “Right”

    Really? All these people who want to know about Washington are asking because of ticket prices and taxes? Please. Talk about a straw man argument.

    In the end, we do know about Washington. He’s suspended. He cannot play.

  28. By faster on Aug 19, 2015 | Reply


    let`s guess, washington faces a suspencion for his domestic violence incident, and i expect the nfl and the union to haggle at the moment about the length of this suspencion.
    and do this quiet, because the nfl has some image problem with thier late decissions, with all the public court cases beginning with rice, and ending with brady.

    but i expect them to announce it before the last preseason game.

  29. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on Aug 19, 2015 | Reply

    sbrown … agree

  30. By don on Aug 19, 2015 | Reply

    not looking for much from CJ . he says he’s in the best shape of his life .. sounds pretty familiar . i’m thinking he better be . or he won’t make it through the preseason . don’t see him contributing on special teams . so he’s going to have to be the stud of 3 years ago . or take his 400,000 . and go home.
    about D wash . if he’s re-instated . he’s our best player on defense . i think if this were a different franchise . we would hear more . of course i could be wrong . but high profile stories get attention . the Cardinals are always back page . guessing we would know every detail if it were Tom Brady ..

  31. By Jerry on Aug 19, 2015 | Reply

    I’m not sure why everyone is so high on Hughes, and so down on Williams? I don’t recall Hughes taking a handoff last season, yet Wiilams is shifty, fast and more powerful than Ellington. And don’t discount Grice….the kid can break the long one. Taylor is a solid player but too slow for the NFL.

  32. By don on Aug 19, 2015 | Reply

    just curious Darren . you’re the Cardinals insider . When’s the last time you had a conversation with D wash ??? does he return text messages ? is any member of the press able to contact 1 of our best players ??

  33. By Darren Urban on Aug 19, 2015 | Reply

    Don —

    RE: Washington

    I have not talked to Daryl since right before he was suspended.

    Mike Jurecki seems to be the only media member he is willing to respond to.

  34. By krehbieo14 on Aug 19, 2015 | Reply


    You are a very patient man!

  35. By Jim Koch on Aug 19, 2015 | Reply

    If they keep 4…….. Ellington, C Johnson, D Johnson and Hughes. If it’d 5 I’d keep Kerwyn over Stepfan. Although keeping Stepfan and stashing Kerwyn on the p.s. isn’t a bad idea.

  36. By Jim Koch on Aug 19, 2015 | Reply

    Shame about not having Washington, the D could really use him. Especially with Spoon showing no heart standing on the sidelines.

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