Bruce Arians isn’t scared of overworking his star running back.
“He’s still too young to overuse,” Arians said of David Johnson on Wednesday at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix.
He added: “I want to have 30 touches out of him, if possible, because that’s going to be a lot of offense. When he has his hand on the ball, either as a wide receiver, coming out of the backfield, in the slot, and running, that’s a lot of potential offense for us.”
While the career projections for frequently used running backs are quite clear — they still have one of the shorter lifespans in the NFL and that number significantly decreases with heavy usage — NFL coaches and general managers are starting to sound uniform in their opinion that it doesn’t really matter. The Steelers aren’t going to temper Le’Veon Bell‘s workload in his prime to squeeze out a few more years in Bell’s thirties. The Dallas Cowboys will almost certainly approach the 300-carry mark with Ezekiel Elliott in 2017. This window of time is almost always the best and most valuable a running back is ever going to be.
It’s easy to be selfish here given how fun it was to watch Johnson play in 2016. He was the Cardinals‘ offense, much in the vein of Bell. Johnson is just 25 and still learning new tricks.
The Cardinals need to develop more than just Johnson and Fitzgerald if they are going to compete for the division again in 2017, but 30 touches a game would signify a radical new fold to Arians’ high-flying attack. It’s bold considering the knee injury Johnson suffered at the end of last season, but also a sign that Johnson’s recovery is going according to plan. He did not need surgery, after all. He told the team’s official site two weeks ago that he was “full throttle” in training.
As many have said in the past, Arians did not forget how to design offenses during Arizona’s one down year. This season could be something special, and Johnson will be at the forefront regardless.