30 Nov

The Lede: Can the Cardinals Function Without David Johnson?

The last 21 minutes of the Arizona Cardinals’ season-opener couldn’t have gone much worse. First, David Johnson was left lying on the field after hauling in a 24-yard pass and getting crunched between Lions defenders. Johnson returned to the game on Arizona’s next series, but fumbled the ball away on the first play, and again had to receive attention from the medical staff. This time, he headed to the locker room for an X-ray on his wrist. The kicks to the Cardinals’ groin continued as Detroit proved some things haven’t changed from 2016, scoring 20 points in the final quarter to hand Arizona a 35-23 loss.

While the loss hurts, the idea of being without Johnson for a significant amount of time is tantamount to torture. Save perhaps for Odell Beckham Jr., Johnson is the most vital non-QB for his team’s offense. Fortunately for Arizona, there is no guarantee Johnson misses any time at all. If the MRI results return with bad news, though, Johnson could miss upwards of half the season. Can Arizona manage without their leading rusher and second-leading receiver from 2016? Takeaway: With or without David Johnson in the lineup, the Cardinals have a lot of problems. Their offensive line is still horrible and will likely be without left tackle DJ Humphries for a few weeks. Behind a terrible line, Johnson was only able to muster 23 yards on 11 carries. It didn’t get any better with backup Kerwynn Williams, either, who totaled ten yards on five carries. But Johnson is so much more than your typical RB who runs between the tackles. The 25-year-old hauled in 80 passes last season for 879 yards, and continued to make his presence felt through the air in Week 1, recording six catches (tied for team-high) for 68 yards. Next week, the Cardinals head to Indianapolis to take on the Colts, and are currently 7.5-point favorites on Bovada. Arizona likely won’t need much from the offense to cover this spread. Andrew Luck is not expected back until potentially October, and the Colts offense is an absolute mess with Scott Tolzien at the helm. It’s believed Indianapolis will turn the offense over to Jacoby Brissett, but don’t expect Chuck Pagano and Rob Chudzinski to get the same out of the former third-round pick that Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels did in New England. Arizona’s defense will cover this spread on its own.

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