Cardinals RB David Johnson somber after loss, ‘not even thinking about contract’

Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (90) tackles Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) after he grew a pass during the third quarter at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. September 9. 2018.

David Johnson is used to moving fast, and in 24 hours, he saw a lot of things quickly change around him. On Saturday, the night before returning to the field, the standout running back and the Cardinals agreed to a contract extension, lifting a weight that followed him all preseason.

“We are all happy for him,” teammate Larry Fitzgerald said. “He’s everything you want in a superstar. He’s humble, he’s hardworking … he’s a great face of this franchise.

“He deserves everything he gets.”

But the chance to celebrate was short, as a 24-6 loss to Washington quickly soured the mood. Less than 21 hours after tweeting to celebrate the contract, Johnson was deflated as he quietly addressed the media after the game.

“I am not even thinking about the contract,” he said. “I am thinking about the loss: what I did wrong, mental errors, dropped catches and how bad I played.”

After an offseason bubbling with questions about his return to the field from last season’s wrist injury, Johnson finished with just 37 rushing yards on nine carries in his first game back in nearly a year. 

Early on, the plan seemed to be to utilize him in as many ways as possible. Just look at the Cardinals’ first drive: five of the first six plays involved Johnson. On that initial drive, he had four carries and tacked on a reception. The plays themselves were varied, but it was all Johnson everywhere.

In total, he was targeted as a receiver nine times – second only to Fitzgerald – and picked up 30 receiving yards on five catches. Those catches were more than Chad Williams, Christian Kirk and Ricky Seals-Jones combined. For a team still addressing questions in regards to the receiving corps, Johnson’s ability to be used in multiple ways is critical.

“I think we saw a small glimpse of what he’s capable of doing today, not only in the running game, but the passing game,” Fitzgerald said about Johnson. 

David Johnson was 3rd-best running back in Sunday’s game

With the offense expected to revolve around Johnson, head coach Steve Wilks will be looking for a bigger output.

“I think we are going to need more out of everybody,” Wilks said. 

Wilks said everyone on the team could improve; Johnson put the blame solely on himself. He was highly self-critical and somber, noting times he missed holes or missed blocks.

“I felt as if what I had done hurt the defense,” he said.”I am partly to blame and I felt like they were on the field too long. Not just because of them, but because of us as an offense and because of me not doing my job.”

Johnson certainly was not the only Cardinal to struggle. The team could not string together plays on offense, terminating drives before they could even adjust. Johnson felt good about the play calls; they just couldn’t finish.

On the Washington side, head coach Jay Gruden credited his defensive line with freeing up the linebackers to squash the run. 

Rookie running back Chase Edmonds had 48 total yards: 24 receiving and 24 rushing. While Johnson will carry the load, early indications are that Edmonds will also be utilized in more ways than one. 

The team had just 68 rushing yards total. 

With a both a new contract and a season-opening loss under his belt, Johnson is ready to go back to work. He knows it’s early and wouldn’t let offensive struggles in the opener define the team.

“No level of concern,” he said. “We will go and correct it. We will go as a running back group. I will talk to Kirby (Wilson) and Mike McCoy and correct it and see what I need to improve on.”

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