30 touches for David Johnson? Maybe. Likely not

Posted by Darren Urban on July 17, 2017 – 9:43 am

The subject of David Johnson and his potential touches per game this season has been a ongoing theme this offseason. It came up again this weekend when the Cardinals’ running back attended a fantasy football event (fantasy football is the No. 1 reason so many people want to know about Johnson’s touches this season, in an effort to forecast his production.)

Back at the owners’ meetings in March, Bruce Arians first talked about Johnson getting 30 touches — rushing attempts plus receptions — per game. When Johnson threw out the first pitch at a Diamondbacks game in April, he said there was no reason why he couldn’t get 30 touches a game.

“I never really got fatigued,” Johnson said then. “Those tough defense games against Seattle and the Rams, those games might feel a little sore, but that’s not until the adrenaline comes down. I never really feel too bad.”

Arians has said he’ll be smart about it. And the likelihood of Johnson averaging 30 touches a game, or even reaching that number a lot, just isn’t great.

Last season, one in which Johnson threatened to gain 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving, Johnson didn’t come close to averaging 30 touches a game. In fact, he led the league in touches at “only” 23.3. (Take out his injury-shortened finale, when he only had eight touches before going out with a scary knee injury, and Johnson still only averaged 24.3 touches a game.) Only three times did Johnson reach 30 touches in 2017, when he was the undisputed bellcow of the offense: 30 at San Francisco, 41 at home in the overtime tie against Seattle, and 32 in the late-season win at Seattle. (He had 29 at Minnesota and 27 against Washington.)

Make no mistake. Johnson will again be the centerpiece of the offense. There will be days when he gets 30 touches. But circumstances will be different each game. Defenses will create new challenges. Arians will want his receivers involved. There will be reasons at times to not overdo it with Johnson, too, something Arians has acknowledged. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense that he will average that many. Unless it’s against Seattle.

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14 Responses to “30 touches for David Johnson? Maybe. Likely not”

  1. By D on Jul 17, 2017 | Reply

    Available Cap Space-$12 million range.

    Potential free agent signing this week by Mr. Keim

    1- C. Johson RB
    2- G. Barnidge TE
    3-. S. Shields CB

    MR. Keim has plenty of free agents after this year, plus DBuc and Golden will be needing extensions before 2019, so keeping more Cap Space this season could be the route to take.

  2. By Scott H on Jul 17, 2017 | Reply

    I’m getting such a kick out of discussions I’m hearing ( among the so-called experts ) recently about who is the best RB in the NFL right now, Leveon Bell or David Johnson? Some are picking Johnson because of his durability / availability in addition to overall talent. Pretty cool! But it is just SO hard to get used to best RB discussions coming down to so-and-so and a CARDINALS running back!!! I mean, when was the last time we heard THAT??? We’ve had some OK RB’s in recent decades ( and many more that ranked somewhere below OK ) but this is the first total, legit STUD RB we’ve had since…….fill in the blank.

    Yeah, Garrison Hearst had a good career but most of that was post-Cardinals.

  3. By dkerry5242 on Jul 17, 2017 | Reply

    Why would you take your best running back and give him 30 touches per game? You know it only takes one good hit to cause injury if you’re tired.
    Hopefully Arians is smart enough to realize that over the course of the season.

  4. By joe holst on Jul 17, 2017 | Reply

    the 6-6 tie where they crammed David Johnson down the Seahawks throat was interesting how much they relied on him, hopefully the back ups will pick up some slack.

  5. By Gary M on Jul 17, 2017 | Reply

    Otis Anderson was the last legit Cardinal RB. DJ kinda reminds me of him, but he is faster and more shifty.

  6. By LadyBird04 on Jul 17, 2017 | Reply

    Last year our receiving corps was sick (john Brown), injured (Jaron Brown), injured (JJ Nelson had hand in cast 1/2 year) and let’s not forget the dream walking performances of Michael Floyd. Larry was the only dependable receiver – therefore DJ was the second highest receiver on the team. Personally, I hope our whole corps of receivers are back and functional this year. Naturally, if they are, DJ will have fewer receptions and that might/could affect his ability to go 1k1K this year. That will not go over well with the Fantasy Leaguers. I don’t care if they are disappointed, I just want the Cardinals to win. If that means DJ ONLY rushes for 1,500 and receives ONLY 500 and scores 20 TD’s again this year and the Cards go deep into the playoffs, I’m a happy camper.

    30 Touches per game will exhaust ANY player who has to run up and down the field and get hit, and that isn’t counting the plays where he would be blocking for passers or improving on his protection of Palmer.

    If DJ needs to improve there are two areas: pass protecting Palmer and fumbling. He had the most fumbles of any rb in the league last year. He is a special player and I’m sure he will continue to improve and make even doubters fans of his.

  7. By Jacob Hewitt on Jul 17, 2017 | Reply

    Who should I get first in my fantasy team?
    David Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald?

  8. By Scott H on Jul 17, 2017 | Reply

    Jacob –

    DJ will be THE first player taken in a lot of fantasy drafts this year. Believe it. You have to take him first. Anywhere past the first two picks – overall – you won’t even be able to get DJ. So….

    While I don’t get it, because he has remained consistent, healthy, AND productive, Fitz has dropped down quite a bit where fantasy rankings are concerned. At any reasonable draft table, where people have a clue and things are being done as they should be, Fitz should NOT be available in the middle rounds….but he WILL be in some. If you want him, don’t wait that long. Get him in the 4th – 5th round. Don’t know how many rounds your draft goes for, but…..if you gotta have Fitz, get him before the middle rounds, maybe sooner if there happens to be another Cardinals fan at the table! 🙂

    Also, don’t sleep on Palmer. He is a sneaky GREAT pick for a fantasy QB. He will be around in the late rounds in most drafts, so….do what I’ve done in recent years – take another QB earlier in the draft, then sit back and STEAL Palmer in the late rounds. He’ll be there. And you might end up laughing all the way to the bank!

  9. By LadyBird04 on Jul 17, 2017 | Reply


    In most of the leagues around here, unless you are picking first, David will not be there. So you’ll just have to “settle” for the #11 Larry Fitz

  10. By Scott H on Jul 17, 2017 | Reply

    I don’t want to see DJ get over-used and as Darren is pointing out, I doubt he will be. Based on what we’ve seen so far, he looks like he COULD handle 30 carries touches per game. And he could probably do it for a few years. But we’ve seen how that ends up for RB’s, it will run him into the ground. But BA is smarter than that.

    He will get plenty of use, as he should, but he shouldn’t have to carry this offense. My feeling remains that even if DJ is the focal point, Palmer still has to be the guy that makes this whole thing go. Palmer has to play at his hear best, ala 2015, for the Cards to be a legit contender. If Palmer is NOT playing at his near best, DJ can’t carry this team, no matter how many touches he gets. For proof, look no further than last season. We probably couldn’t expect DJ to carry more of a load or play better than he did last year. And yet, the offense seemed stuck in 2nd gear much of the time and we finished at 7-9. Why? The passing game just wasn’t there. Palmer struggled early on and as pointed out above, we had too many problems among the WR corps ( Fitz, of course, being the only guy who was both healthy AND playing at the level he should ).

    With DJ giving us what he did last year AND Palmer back in the groove….this offense will be too much for most teams to hang with.

  11. By JohnnyBluenose on Jul 17, 2017 | Reply

    We need to play hard every game and take nothing for granted. Having said that, I do not think our schedule is that difficult and I do not see the need to over-use David Johnson. I hope Elijhaa Penny makes the team and gets a good number of carries in the second half of half our games. I also hope Kerwynn Williams is involved in our offense again and a bit more than last year. I do not envision Andre Ellington making our team. I would prefer CJ2K to him but that appears unlikely unless there are injuries. Time will reveal all.

  12. By creditcard on Jul 17, 2017 | Reply

    Johnson’s number of carries will be more dependent upon whether the Cards are playing ahead or behind in a game.

    The Cards can potentially be very dangerous offensively if the run game is dominant. A dominant run game obviously opens up all types of passing routes and with the speed the Cards possess — it can be very entertaining.

  13. By mitchaz on Jul 18, 2017 | Reply

    It seems like a very good year for the Cardinals to have 5 pre-season games, especially in light of all the free agents they lost this off-season. Steve Keim has been diligently trying to turn over the bottom third of the roster while amassing 4 compensatory draft picks for 2018.

    Keim hopes to win this year, but he’s trying to look ahead with the thought of being consistently good year to year.

    However, what Keim’s strategy has meant is that the Cardinals’ coaches no longer have the luxury of red-shirting rookies. The time for integrating the youth into the lineups is now. Thus, having an extra week of training camp and 5 pre-season games in which to develop the newcomers (rookies and the few free agents) the Cardinals signed, is auspicious.

    Equally auspicious is the timing of the new rule that teams can keep 90 players all the way through the pre-season. BA and SK won’t have to worry about over-extending the starters and key backup players in the final pre-season game.

    The trade and waiver wire frenzy on the weekend of September 1st should be fast and furious. Keim and all the GMs will be glued to their cellphones from dawn to midnight.

    The biggest question mark about this pre-season for the Cardinals is whether the young depth that Steve Keim has been building on the roster is better than average. Last year we were told that the depth on the Cardinals’ roster was the deepest and most talented ever — and yet the pre-season was a colossal disappointment. Part of the reason was the highly ineffective play of backup QB Drew Stanton — the second team offense sputtered and the opponents took advantage and pretty much dominates the 2nd and 3rd quarters.

    As one takes a good look at the Cardinals’ second teams, it should be exciting to see them in action. The depth here is potentially very good — hopefully good enough to tap into and not miss a beat when injuries to starters occur.

    It should be fascinating to see Blaine Gabbert get his shot at QB. With that in mind, let’s see what he’ll be working with when he gets his chance with the 2nd team:

    QB Blaine Gabbert
    RB Kerwynn Williams, Andre Ellington, Elijhaa Penny, T.J. Logan
    TE Ifeanyi Momah, Troy Niklas, Hakeem Valles, Ricky Seals-Jones
    WR Chad Williams, Aaron Dobson, Jeremy Ross, Marquis Bundy, Chris Hubert, Krishawn Hogan, Carlos Agudosi

    LT Will Holden (Givens Price)
    LG Dorian Johnson (Kaleb Johnson)
    C Cole Toner (Marcus Crowley)
    RG John Wetzel (Tony Bergstrom)
    RT Ulrich John (John Wetzel)

    This offense should be able to put up some good numbers, chiefly because the offensive line, as 2nd string lines go, is athletic and talented. There is speed (Williams, Ellington, Logan) and power (Penny) at RB, and size (Williams, Dobson, Bundy Hogan, Agudosi) and speed (Ross, Hubert) at WR. At TE there are big targets in Momak, Niklas, Valles and Seals-Jones.

    On the other side of the ball, there should be much excitement generated by the second team defense — primary because it will be led by two excellent young tackler in ILB Scooby Wright and FS Budda Baker.

    LDE Robert Nkemdiche, Ed Stinson
    NT Xavier Williams, Pasoni Tasini
    RDE Rodney Gunter, Olsen Pierre

    LOLB Kareem Martin, Cap Capi
    LILB Scooby Wright, Gabe Martin
    RILB Haason Reddick, Alani Fua
    ROLB Jarvis Jones, Alex Bazzie

    LCB Elie Bouka, Jumal Rolle, Sojourn Shelton
    SS Ironhead Gallon, Rudy Ford
    FS Budda Baker, Harlan Miller
    RCB Brandon Williams, Rudy Ford, Gump Hayes

    NCB Rudy Ford
    NCB Budda Baker
    NFS Harlan Miller

    This unit should play fast and very physical — there are some good, hard-charging tacklers in the mix here, which is exactly what the team needs. The biggest questions are whether this unit can generate a good pass rush and display improved coverage in the secondary.

    Of course, it will be very interesting to see whether the special teams have improved and which players emerge as STs aces — which gives them a great shot at making the roster. It would seem that T.J. Logan will be the kickoff returner. Will someone emerge as a new punt returner? The punting battle between Matt Wile and Richie Leone should be one of the great camp competitions — and it should be interesting to see how new placekicker Phil Dawson improves the kicking game.

    BA has vowed to make this training camp more intense and more physical. There promises to be a greater focus on the fundamentals of blocking and tackling.

    Let the race to 53 begin!

  14. By chris on Jul 18, 2017 | Reply

    The Cards hate running the ball. The only reason David has so many touches is cause he has great hands and the team handed the ball only to him. Other than the Wild Cat BA only took time away from the passing game to give it to David. 3rd 1, 4th 1, 2nd 4 it does not matter BA wants to throw. The Cards were not even in the top 2/3 of the league in rushing attempts and that is with the best back in the league and a older QB getting the SH@# kicked out of him. Penny is a big body we cld run up the gut. Both Andre and Williams can be shifty. They don’t want to give real carries to them cause they dont want to run the ball. Only 9 teams ran the ball less than the Cards….9.. When BA talks about 30 touches he means 22 rushing and 8 catching.

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