In 2016 Todd Gurley, last year’s MVP candidate, produced over 1,200 yards and the world thought that Gurley’s career was over. In 2016 David Johnson had over 2,000 all purpose yards and set the world on fire! In 2017 Todd Gurley had over 2,000 all purpose yards while David Johnson sadly got injured early in the season and 2018 David Johnson barely got 1,300 yards and spectators were disappointed in his season. What are the similarities between 2018 David Johnson and 2016 Todd Gurley? Todd Gurley had an infamous head coach, Jeff Fisher, known for a very lackluster and non creative offense. Sound Familiar? It should, that was Mike McCoy’s offense last year. Mike McCoy is known for his run up the middle no matter what philosophy. The Cardinals ineffective play calling for David Johnson last year and bad offensive line is a very similar situation to Todd Gurley in 2016. Just like Todd Gurley can David Johnson bounce back an MVP candidate?
Weeks 1 through 4 with Sam Bradford and Mike McCoy David Johnson had 179 rushing yards and 118 receiving yards. Weeks 5 through 10 with Josh Rosen and McCoy he had 465 rush yards and 193 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. During that time the Cardinals called the least amount of offensive plays out of any NFL team but found a way to call 50 more run plays straight up the middle than the team that called the second most plays straight up the middle. You might think that it can’t get any worse… You are wrong.
The Cardinals fired Mike McCoy and decided to promote the quarterback coach. Instead of hiring another offensive coordinator, due to the timing of the termination, they gave David Johnson a new offensive coordinator half way through the season and he was the QB coach. From week 11 to week 16 with the new coordinator David Johnson 335 rushing yards 135 receiving yards but finally got 6 additional touchdowns.
Here is where the hope comes in through. The new Offensive Coordinator is the old Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator and has been since 2006. From 2006 to 2018 Tom Clements has only failed to make a top 10 Offense 4 times. Where as the Cardinals last year were historically bad on offense, there hasn’t been an offense in the NFL that awful since the 2007 San Francisco 49ers season. The addition of Coach Cliff Kingsbury air raid high octane system will add more opportunity. Kingsbury says he plans on 95 offensive snaps a game, which is impossible, but what I can infer from the coach’s comment is an affirmation that the Cardinals are going to play fast paced and snap the ball as much as possible. Last year the Cardinals only snapped the ball 53 times a game (not counting special teams) which equaled 850 plays total a.k.a. dead last in the NFL. Realistically on the low end Kingsbury could call 68 plays a game to increase their season play calls to 1,088 resulting with a guaranteed top 7 offense in terms of plays called. This is very attainable as Chip Kelly typically had over 1130 plays a year. With the extra 238 plays called, David Johnson could easily end up with 35% of the extra touches which would be 83 additional attempts (last year he had 40% of the team touches) at a minimal 5 yards per attempt resulting in 415 extra yards and that’s my expectations on the low end!
In addition, last year the Cardinals also had the worst offensive line in the NFL. The offensive line was increasingly banged up; in 16 games the Cardinals had 10 different starting lineups. Between the recovering linemen and the addition of J.R. Sweezey, not to mention this line up, there is no doubt that by the end of the year I have predicted the Cardinals offensive line to be ranked 24th in the NFL which still sounds bad out of 32 but thats 8 places higher than the year before. On top of that, the Cardinals play the best defensive tackles in the league including Aaron Donald two times, in week 1 faces “Snacks” Harrison, and other phenomenal defensive tackles throughout the year so even though A.Q. Shipley is finally healthy and a great center I foresee some teams exploiting him, there will be a lot of outlet passes to David Johnson due to the line crumbling in the middle. The right side of the line has improved immensely which allows for David Johnson to do more strategically and cause more damage with his specialty outside running plays and without McCoy mucking up the situation this looks like it will be the strategy. With a better line that could afford David Johnson more breakaway runs this year increasing his average rush attempt last year from 3.6 YPA easily to 4.2 YPA like his 2016 season.
If you are the 3rd or 4th draft pick in your Fantasy League and you feel like your not sure which running back you want and your doubting David Johnson don’t doubt him draft him! I don’t see him getting less than 2,000 yards this year and 15 TD’s barring injury. At the end of the season there will be talk about David Johnson being the best all purpose running back in the NFL for the year.