As the NFL continues its move toward multi-back offensive systems, the Arizona Cardinals head into the 2016 season sporting, perhaps, the league’s best 1-2 punch. In fact, David Johnson and Chris Johnson are pretty certain they are the best duo the league has to offer.
Once upon a time, Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson, then a member of the Tennessee Titans, was considered the elite of the league. In 2009, Johnson became only the sixth player in NFL history to surpass 2,000 yards rushing.
Although Johnson was never again able to compile such impressive numbers, he’s not exactly been a slouch. After his remarkable 2,006-yard campaign, he went on to rush for 1,000 or more yards four consecutive years (which was six 1,000-plus yard seasons in total).
However, 2014 brought different fortunes for Johnson, however. He would join the New York Jets, fail to reach 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career and, unfortunately, would be the victim of a shooting gone terribly wrong.
As he healed, Johnson considered retirement. But after watching film of his season with Gang Green, he changed his mind and eventually joined the Cardinals, where he would team up with rookie third-round pick David Johnson, among others.
The veteran Johnson assumed the lead role, compiling 814 yards on the ground before suffering a fractured tibia in Week 12. Then it was time for rookie Johnson to step up, and step up he did.
In the final five games of 2015, David Johnson rushed for 422 yards and then added another 95 in the playoffs. He ultimately finished the season with 1,636 all-purpose yards (581 rushing, 457 receiving and 598 on kick returns) and 13 touchdowns.
The 13 touchdowns set a single-season rookie record for the Cardinals and were the most among all rookie running backs in the league.
With a year now under the youngsters belt and the elder Johnson coming back healthy, expectations are understandably high. And the duo of Johnson & Johnson aren’t shying away from them, either.
“I feel like me and him can probably be the best tandem in the NFL this year,” Chris Johnson told Arizona Sports.
As a veteran, Chris has also taken it upon himself to help tutor the man who will ultimately take his job. But at least for now, that’s not a concern in his mind. Rather, his sole focus is on winning a Super Bowl, and if that means having to hit fast forward on his starting career then so be it.
For his part, David is all ears.
“We’ll be great together,” David Johnson said. “C.J. continues to help me out in my running, continues to teach some of the tips of the trade of how to run the ball and make it easier for me and the linemen blocking.
But it’s not just David who has benefited from the veteran’s presence. Fellow running backs Andre Ellington, Stepfan Taylor, Kerwynn Williams and rookie Elijhaa Perry all have as well. And it’s for that reason — talent coupled with veteran leadership — the Cardinals will likely establish themselves as one of the best on the ground in 2016.