Behind Johnson, the look of running back room

Posted by Darren Urban on May 19, 2017 – 9:45 am

When you have arguably the best running back in the league — certainly in the top two or three — who can both rush and catch the ball with any back out there, the notion of who is behind him can get lost. But then it was reported this week, before LeGarrette Blount signed with the Eagles, that the Cardinals showed some interest. It raises the question, with the team moving on from veteran Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington giving wide receiver a shot, just how that depth chart will fill out behind David Johnson.

As it stands right now, Kerwynn Williams figures to be the top running option behind Johnson. Williams has earned that nod over the years; he has produced on the ground when he has gotten the chance. T.J. Logan, the rookie fifth-round pick, is a virtual lock to make the roster. His kickoff return skills alone help, and from what little I have seen in the OTAs and rookie minicamp, the speed on display after catch a short pass is a very real threat.

Beyond that? Ellington could still officially end up as a running back, although it feels like in many ways his and Logan’s skillsets are similar. Big Elijhaa Penny seems to be the wild card. Is he the big back the Cards could use between the tackles if needed? Do the Cardinals need to add someone at some point? I’ve never gotten the sense the Cardinals felt a strong need to add another vet back — it was a little surprising to hear Blount caught their attention — but that’s part of what OTAs and minicamp will be for, to sort that need out. It would never be surprising to have the Cardinals decide to make a late signing either. That’s what happened with Chris Johnson, and with GM Steve Keim, you never rule out that possibility.

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32 Responses to “Behind Johnson, the look of running back room”

  1. By D on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    RB room

    Agree with you Darren, probably will see how the offseason plays out, although we all know BA needs trust in his RBs for blitz pickup, knowing offense etc, not sure if E. Penny is ready yet.

    My guess at the RB room:

    D. Johnson
    K. Williams
    T.J. Logan
    Free agent signee- James Starks.

    p/s E. Penny

    Cards do need an exp RB for the room.

  2. By Big Ken on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    Elijhaa Penny looked great last year. Darren, who is the new coach of the Cardinal RB’s?

  3. By Darren Urban on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    Big Ken —

    RE: RB coach

    Freddie Kitchens

  4. By Scott H on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    wait a minute….we showed interest in Blount ( who plays a position that is not one of critical need for this team ) but we showed no interest in McCourty ( who plays a position of definite need for this team )???

    Really? Why isn’t that making sense to me?

  5. By Big Ken on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    Oh that’s right!

  6. By Scott H on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    Why was Blount, who rushed for over 1100 yards last year and led the league in rushing TD’s, going to come HERE to play behind David Johnson? That wouldn’t seem to be a good fit for him. I guess that is why he is an Eagle instead.

    FWIW, I wish the Cardinals HAD signed Blount a couple of years back when they COULD have and SHOULD have signed him. I remember so many people expressing concerns about what a bad guy he was and how we didn’t need a guy like that in the locker room. Yeah. OK. He sure didn’t cause any problems for the Patriots, while he helped them win TWO Super Bowls.

  7. By Bill Thompson on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    I hope that Chris Johnson catches on with somebody; not just anybody in the NFC West. Who knows? He still could wind up here!?

  8. By Richard S on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    I like Kerwin Williams. Logan might be OK if he can protect the ball and not fumble it to the other team. I think I read something about that before somewhere.

  9. By sean on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    A veteran would be nice to have for tutelage.

  10. By Adam S Larson on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    — Darren, who will be the CARDS big back..essentially the FB?

  11. By Darren Urban on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    Adam —

    RE: Big back

    You mean, besides David Johnson?

  12. By michael on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    Thank you Scott H.

    CB2 continues to confound me, as if SK learned NOTHING from last year. I thought it might have had to do wiht waiting until after May 9, so as not to mess wiht the comp picks formula. But starting May 10 – with plenty of money for a veteran CB2 still left in the cap – it seemd like the perfect time to pounce.

    So now, here’s what I’m hoping is the thinking: give the current CBs on the roster as many reps as possible during camp to have them improve, especially as cmap is a little longer this year wiht the 5th game. Then, after the cuts to 75, pick up a recently released CB2 that SK has had his eye on, giving him enough time to learn basic system so he’s not too new like Cooper was last year coming to the cards after the final preseason game.

    who knows who that is, as BA and SK like long CBs, taking guys like Flowers and Verner off the table (who are on the table now, since they are free agents)

  13. By Hammy on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    My concern with the lack of experienced backs in that with David Johnson getting so many snaps/touches per game; his body will take a big time beating. Need a bigger back to use for short yardage situations. Not saying David could not handle it but we need him fresh for the postseason grind!

  14. By Scott H on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    Michael –

    You’re welcome, my friend!

    Look, I LOVE this team, so I don’t WANT to see this happen….but our CB situation has the potential to be a lightening rod for the fans if we end up with a gaping hole at CB – like we did last year – because we are just woefully under-manned on the other side of the field, opposite PP. We’re going into a year that may be the last REAL shot at being a contender we may see for awhile. With the same guys who couldn’t get it done last year. AFTER an off-season where we were promised an aggressive approach by our GM, only to get a VERY passive approach instead.

    MANY very good CB options were available and we saw virtually no effort made by this team to pursue any of them. I’m sorry, Mr Keim, but didn’t you say we were going to be aggressive???

    If either Bethel or Williams are able to lock down the other side of the field with nothing less than SOLID performance, there will be – and there SHOULD be – a lot to answer for from the GM.

  15. By Scott H on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    Wait….a veteran for the RB room….oh, you mean like Chris Johnson??? Have we forgotten about him??

  16. By Scott H on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    Man, did I flub the end of my previous post about the CB position….

    Obviously, I meant to say that if either Bethel or Williams are NOT able to lock down the other side of the field…..there will be a lot for Keim to answer for.

  17. By creditcard on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    As per the comment(s) about CB2… I believe the talent they have with Williams, Bethel, Ford, Bourka etc… is better than most in the league. Where the Cards need an improvement, is an interior pass rush. When the Broncos had Wolfe and Jackson in the middle, life was easy for Ware and Miller; it also made the CBs jobs easy as well.

    Anytime when two guards, a center and a running back are being dedicated to blocking two players, and still not getting the job done — edge players will look like gods.

    As far as RB, the Cards need diversity. all purpose David Johnson, a scat back, and a bruiser. All need to know how to block, catch, play special teams, and of course be an effective ball carrier.

  18. By dan on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    Did the Honey Badger get some new choppers?

  19. By rod on May 19, 2017 | Reply

    I love how every year we had an issue, OL…Keim addressed it. Then running back, Kei. Addressed that. No passrush? Kei. Addressed that too. Took a while for some reason for him to address STs but he did that. I have full confidence that when the QB needs to be addressed, he’ll do that too…again!

  20. By Rick on May 20, 2017 | Reply

    Too Bad we did not get Blount . We would have been a good addition. You can never have enough good players. Seemed like he did not cost that much.

  21. By John on May 20, 2017 | Reply

    Is the organization officially moving on from Stepfan Taylor? Is he just not good enough to keep as a solid 3rd back and reliable special teamer?

  22. By clssylssy on May 20, 2017 | Reply

    David Johnson has credited Chris Johnson with teaching him much of what allowed him to be so successful in learning the offense and it would seem the logical thing would be to bring CJ back, as an on field mentor and situational player that would give David some relief. CJ is tough and tenacious, unafraid to put his face in the fire and fight for yards. He knows the offense and has been a good lockerroom guy on the cheap. It would make a lot of sense to bring him back and perhaps even pay him for his contributions.
    When I read that the Cards were pursuing Blount, I had to laugh since he wasn’t going to play cheap and was certain to go to a younger team with more of an upside–playling in the shadow of DJ couldn’t have been that appealing.
    This sseems like such a no-brainer. CJ could help E. Penny and Logan so much in their development and we know what we have with him rather than some unknown commodity who still has to learn the playbook.
    The Seahawks are rebuilding their run game, and if DJ gets hurt we’re gonna be toast!

  23. By shannon robinson on May 21, 2017 | Reply

    Terry Allen is a great technician and mentor for our Running Back Room (he’ll be a lot like Stump Mitchell was as a coach – having done it). Terry Allen was a versatile, strong back. He has talent similar to David J : Terry was a good pass blocker and ran good routes out of the backfield. He could get a 100 yards on the ground and with receptions/screens. He ran inside well, didn’t drop the ball. Putting Freddie Kitchens in charge is a fine touch. Mr. Kitchens knows the protections having coached the QB’s and I’ve noticed he’s always tossing short passes to our guys. “Hands up, open, watch it in, read the label.” You can almost hear him. As to adding a corner back or safety – who are you going to cut if you keep this new aging veteran? I kind of like the draft and veteran FAgent additions and I want to see how our talent plays out. I think the Roster is set.

  24. By Eric G on May 22, 2017 | Reply

    Kerwynn Williams is a one dimensional back. He can run, but he cannot block worth a damn and I highly doubt that he’s a receiving threat given his size. I’m not particularly happy that he is the #2 back. I’d rather have had CJ back. Hoping that Logan is as good in the NFL as he looks on college tape and he becomes the #2 back.

  25. By JTDG on May 23, 2017 | Reply

    What are we looking at really?

    We need a back to come in and get 5 touches a game.

    To me, and I love Chris Johnson, it just doesn’t make sense. Not from the cardinals point of view. I’m sure the cards would welcome him back at a minimum salary, but why would CJ do that?

    CJ’s real value, or any back up, would come if DJ got hurt. Tough though to sign for minimum and sit all year and end up with 40-60 touches for the year.

    Another back out there who might have some value to the cards could be Reggie Bush. Remember, this is not a starter spot or even a guy who gets 10-15 touches. This is a guy who gets 3-5 touches a game. BA and Keim wanted him back in 2013 but the Lions had a better offer. Bush is a guy, who could make a play in a game with 3-5 touches. He knows how to pick up a blitz and if need be, could fill in for a game or two if DJ tweeked something.

    I think the smart move is to wait. See if CJ gets any offers. If he gets nothing, then see if he will come back and fill that roll of a vet, who is there just in case. If CJ gets grabbed, Bush might be an alternative. I’m not sold on Kerwynn Williams being that guy.

    Depth is needed to win championships. Everyone will get injuries. The top teams overcome them with depth. In that way, CJ might be more valuable than anyone thinks.

  26. By JTDG on May 23, 2017 | Reply

    As for Scott H and others, who want a CB2;

    Preach on.
    I have been saying this since 2011. Ever since we traded away DRC and drafted Peterson , we have had that hole opposite Peterson (except for the one year with Antonio Cromartie).

    In 2015, we said our safeties were too slow to get over to save the CB2. We got faster safeties, but suffered the same issues in 2016. Now we draft another safety but plan on sending out the same two guys.

    Peterson might be the best cover CB in football. He is a true shut down CB. No QB in their right mind is going to last throwing Petersons way. Everyone knows this. This isn’t a secret. CB2 and the slot CB will be targeted a lot. Teams will test them again and again.

    CB2, with Peterson opposite you, is not a learning spot or one you can just toss someone out there. It is a huge cog in the defense machine. If that piece doesn’t work, the defense doesn’t work. Don’t believe me? Just look at the first few games where the defense had to switch to more zone than I have ever seen to cover up for CB2.

    In a draft full of CBs and a FA with some really good ones, I’m puzzled with this lack of urgency to fix the biggest hole in the defense.

    As we see, the cards have plenty of money where they could have made a move in FA to correct the issue.

  27. By Scott H on May 23, 2017 | Reply

    JTDG –

    Responding to multiple posts here….

    On the RB depth issue, yeah, it is scary how LITTLE we have beyond DJ. Yes, CJ has been of TREMENDOUS value to this team in recent seasons and he could be again if we are lucky enough to get him back. The fact that we ( apparently ) had interest in Blount ( who was never going to come here ) tells you all you need to know – a veteran presence is needed. And I think CJ is still the perfect guy for that role here. Perfect.

    On the CB2 front…..OK, you get it, and you’ve been beating that drum for years. I CANNOT believe we are going into 2017 with basically nothing more than what we went into 2016 with. Yeah, OK, maybe we are getting a healthy Bethel this year and a Brandon Williams with some more experience under his belt. But….does either of those things assure anyone that we are OK now on the other side?? Um, that would be no. That position can ONLY be viewed as what it is until / unless Bethel or Williams or anyone else really steps up to claim that spot – one big question mark.

    And legit SB contenders are not typically going into training camp with big question marks at key positions. This has potential disaster written all over it.

    Let’s also keep in mind that we have multiple big question marks elsewhere. Can the Honey Badger get back to his true self and sustain it? Who is going to fill the void left by Campbell? Is Reddick going to be able to handle stepping into a starting role with Bucannon out? Can Dansby still get it done?

    With all that going on….it would be nice to feel like the CB2 spot was effectively addressed.

  28. By michael on May 23, 2017 | Reply

    Amen JTDG

    Creditcard, I wish i shared your optimism, but i hardly see how a tandem of Bethel, Williams, Ford and Bourka – an unerperforming CB, a still developing one, a rookie and a CFL cast off – qualify as one of the best in the leauge. Improvements to the pass rush don’t mean much if the opposing QB still has an outlet at CB2.

    And now the NFL just got rid of the cuts to 75 (going directly from 90 to 53), so at best we’re looking at a marcus cooper type pick-up the week before the season, leaving little time to learn the defense. Yes, Cooper made the pro bowl, but how? Good stats from games we won covered up how vulnerable he was in games we lost.

    gotta hope SK has a plan. maybe we’ll lear more after June 1 cuts. This could potentially open it up for some more established CBs carrying bigger contracts, as post June 1 allows team to spread salary cap hit over two years. just no idea who that might be now…

  29. By Scott H on May 23, 2017 | Reply

    michael –

    And Amen to you as well. I don’t get how anyone can look at the “talent” we have at CB ( beyond PP, of course ) and say it is among the best in the league. IMHO, there would have to be PROVEN talent there to base that on. And once you get beyond Peterson….we have no talent that is proven. None at all. I damn sure hope some becomes apparent before September.

    Still waiting for them to bring in a veteran….and have wondered why we haven’t heard the name Tracey Porter kicked around. I mean, unless he is just shot out physically and has nothing left….why the hell not?? Or, as you’ve said, maybe when teams start making cuts. But….really, what are you going to find at that point??? They COULD have / SHOULD have made a move to acquire a bona fide up-grade during free agency, and they didn’t. And that is just flat out un-acceptable. That is akin to going up to bat when all you need to do is make contact / put the ball in play and instead, you keep the bat on your shoulder and watch pitches to hit go by.

  30. By michael on May 23, 2017 | Reply

    Apparently the Jags are kicking the tires on Alterran Verner. Why we’re not doing any tire kicking, beats me.

    And there are guys like Brandon Flowers still out there. Bring em in for a one year deal and help with the transition. And i’m tired of hearing “Arians likes his CB long and rangy”, needing to be 6’0″ or more. Arians himself said “We play dude coverag.e that’s your dude – cover him.” so bring in a guy who has EXPERIENCE covering his dudes.

    ugh, its so frustrating.

  31. By clssylssy on May 26, 2017 | Reply

    Looking around the NFC alone, it seems many teams are beefing up their run game (Saints, Seahawks, Packers, Panthers) and will be looking different from last season. With more teams recognizing the importance of a winning run game, I worry about our lack of depth as everybody we play is going to be focusing on David and looking for our vulnerabilities. I really hope Keim will be signing another veteran to help lighten the load on David and perhaps extend his longevity. It’s going to take time for the rookies and young guys to be ready to be serious contributors and we all know how important those early games are to having a successful season.
    I see that Peter King has the Raiders ranked #2, in part because of the return of Money Lynch and overall the increased focus on the run game is going to make things a lot dicier for offenses.I’m anxious to see how Penny develops as he looked good in preseason last year and is a more sturdy and physical back.

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