Arizona Cardinals: Losing David Johnson derails 2017 season

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: David Johnson (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: David Johnson (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

With just one week into the 2017 season is it already time to look forward to the 2018 Arizona Cardinals?

To say the Arizona Cardinals got off to a rough start to the new season is an understatement. On their first drive against the Detroit Lions, quarterback Carson Palmer threw an ugly interception. Running back David Johnson followed it up with a fumble on a reception that fortunately didn’t result in a turnover on their next drive.

It was cornerback Justin Bethel, who entered training camp as a hopeful to even be a starter this season, that was in the right place at the right time to intercept Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and return it for Arizona’s first touchdown on the season.

The Cardinals didn’t score their first offensive touchdown until the third quarter, and it was Kerwynn Williams who finally punched it in. Not Palmer. Not Johnson.

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The entire game derailed in the fourth quarter with the defense giving up two consecutive touchdowns to Lions rookie wide receiver Kenny Golladay. Detroit capped off their 21-point fourth quarter with a Palmer pick-six ultimately putting the game out of reach and potential for a comeback.

The biggest news coming out of the second half wasn’t the final score to the first game of the season. It was the loss of the key that was set to drive the Cardinals offense into the playoffs in 2017.

Throughout the whole day, Johnson, now in his third year out of Northern Iowa, was virtually ineffective. The ground game was never able to gain any traction against the Lions front seven, only mustering 23 yards on 11 carries. In the passing game he accumulated six receptions for 68 yards including one for 24 yards.

It was the 24-yard reception that the health of Johnson was starting to become a question. It had nothing to do with the knee injury from week 17 of last year but a big hit that looked to have knocked the wind out of him. In the following Cardinals offensive series, Johnson bounced the run to the left side of the field and was stripped with Jarrad Davis of the Lions recovering.

That’s the play that could break the whole 2017 season. Johnson was taken to the locker room soon following the turnover to address a wrist injury. That injury was left up in the air and still is to some degree. However, NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport reported that the “initial prognosis” is the same as T.J. Logan’s — the rookie is set to miss 12 weeks.

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Johnson accounted for 2,118 yards and 373 touches (293 rushes, 80 receptions) in 2016. Without the workhorse on offense and with the lack of depth at running back right now, along with the thin group at wide receiver, the head coach Bruce Arians’ offense could be in for a long season.