Arizona’s David Johnson expecting big things in new offense

Arizona running back David Johnson believes it could be a grand year.

Two grand, even.

Johnson came close to having 1,000 yards rushing and receiving once before and believes he can do it under new coach Kliff Kingsbury’s high-octane offense.

“I definitely hope that a thousand/thousand is reachable and that’s always going to be my goal, with the team coming first,” Johnson said after organized team activities Wednesday.

Only two running backs in NFL history have had 1,000 rushing and receiving in the same season: San Francisco’s Roger Craig in 1985 and St. Louis’ Marshall Faulk in 1999. Johnson was close in a breakout 2016, when he had 1,239 rushing yards and 879 receiving. Christian McCaffrey threatened last year with 1,098/867.

Johnson has suffered through a pair of frustrating seasons since, however. He missed all but one game in 2017 after suffering a wrist injury in the season opener, and his totals were down when the Cardinals went 3-13 last year as defenses stacked the running lanes while daring rookie quarterback Josh Rosen to throw. Johnson gained 940 yards rushing (3.6 per carry) and 446 yards receiving.

He sees a better fit now.

“I think’s it going to be a dynamic offense,” Johnson said. “I think it is going to be a lot different because we are going to be at home in the shotgun. We’re spreading it out a little more. More space out there on the field. It is going to really helpful because only having to worry about one guy tackling you compared to three, four guys loading the box.

“I think it is going to be similar to 2016. I think it will be better for me and I will be utilized as a running back and a receiver. A lot more opportunities to get the ball. A lot more opportunities to score and help out the team. I’m very excited.”

Kingsbury, whose offense at Texas Tech frequently lined up in four-wide receiver sets, called the halfback in his system “pivotal.”

“They have to be able to do it all, and we have a guy who can,” Kingsbury said. “Excited to use him in a bunch of different ways and try to get him the football … You can tell he has run routes before. He looks like he’ll be a tough matchup on some linebackers.”

The Cardinals are in the early stages of installing their offense, but Johnson has seen enough to like the system.

“I like his mentality,” Johnson said of Kingsbury. “We are trying to get a lot of plays in on offense. No huddle, because it makes it hard for the defense to call plays. They might not call blitzes as much.

“I think he’s been tremendous not just the offense but as a coach overall. Straight to the point. Telling guys what he expects out of the whole team . I like what it has been like. The personnel we have. There are so many weapons we added to the offense.”

Foremost, of course, is No. 1 draft choice quarterback Kyler Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner last year and the second straight Oklahoma quarterback to be taken with the first pick in the draft after Cleveland selected Baker Mayfield in 2018.

“First off, he’s faster and quicker than I thought,” Johnson said of his early look at Murray.

“And I think a lot of people underestimate how great he can throw. He throws an accurate dart. I see him in the quarterback drills, throwing it at the net, and he’s hitting five in a row and stuff like that.”

Murray and Johnson seem to building a rapport.

“He’s been great at the game,” Murray said of Johnson. “He’s seen a lot of football. He’s played a lot of football. I think we’ll be pretty versatile, as far as me and him go.”

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