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David Johnson eager to run behind a fullback

5/16/2018 8:30:47 AM
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On Tuesday, the first day of organized team activities, coach Steve Wilks went out of his way to praise No. 31, David Johnson, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reports.

“I don’t want to get too excited,” Wilks said, “but David Johnson, he looked outstanding today. It’s good to have him back on there, just flying around. The things that he’s doing right now, it’s pretty exciting.”

Johnson missed 15 games last season after suffering a dislocated wrist in the first game. That injury left the Cardinals offense without an identity – and a compass – and was a major factor in the team finishing out of the playoffs a second consecutive year.

The offense underwent a major transformation in the offseason. Sam Bradford is the new starting quarterback. Right guard Justin Pugh and right tackle Andre Smith are new. It's unclear who will start at tight end, and the depth chart at receiver behind Larry Fitzgerald is undefined.

But No. 31 is back, which gives the Cardinals some confidence their offense will be better in 2018.

Johnson has been cleared all spring, but apparently made a special impression on Tuesday, the first time the Cardinals were allowed to use 11-on-11 drills in practice. No contact was permitted, but coaches and teammates didn’t have to use much imagination to envision what Johnson might have done had the action been live.

The most significant change in the offense is that Johnson sometimes will be running behind a fullback, a position designation that didn’t exist under Arians.

Johnson had a fullback to block for him in college at Northern Iowa, so the concept isn’t foreign to him.

“It’s nice always have more blockers in the run game,” he said. “I think it makes my job a little easier, having those guys being able to pick up linebackers, D-ends (defensive ends) or anybody on that defensive side. It makes my read a little bit easier.”

Johnson has a new position coach, Kirby Wilson, who has coached several great NFL runners, including Curtis Martin, Emmitt Smith, Adrian Peterson and Edgerrin James.

“He’s always in my ear,” Johnson said. “The little things are very important to him. The biggest thing I like is he’s really trying to get on me to make sure I’m the leader, make sure I’m setting the example.”

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