NFL Offseason Stories 101: Take an interesting quote from a coach or GM and ask the player about it at an event or charity appearance.
On Thursday afternoon, while taking batting practice with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Johnson was asked about taking on such a heavy workload. The 25-year-old tailback would welcome the challenge.
“I’m still young,” Johnson told Kyle Odegard of the team’s official website. “I’m still on my first contract. So I feel I can definitely handle 30 touches. I did it last year, basically, with running the ball and catching it out of the backfield.”
Johnson carried the ball 293 times for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns while adding 80 catches for 879 yards and four receiving TDs.
Here’s the breakdown of his 373-touch season: 20 in Week 1; 15; 22; 21; 30; 25; 41 (with 33 carries); 17; 24; 29; 21; 27; 25; 16; 32; and 8 (he was injured early in the contest and did not return). If we toss out the final game, that’s an average of 24.3 touches over 15 weeks.
“I never really got fatigued,” Johnson said. “Those tough defense games against Seattle and the Rams, those games might feel a little sore, but that’s not until the adrenaline comes down. I never really feel too bad.”
Arians is prone to hyperbole when discussing running back touches. This is the same coach who said in 2014 that a slightly built Andre Ellington could handle “25 to 30” touches from the backfield. Arians is planning to move Ellington to wide receiver this season.
While all proclamations in today’s NFL that a running back will take on 30 or so touches should be taken with a grain of salt, at least Johnson possesses the body type and pass-catching acumen to come close to that outsized number.
“I just like having the ball in my hand,” Johnson said. “Whichever way B.A. can think of doing it, I’m all for it.”