Cardinals Insider Bob McManaman breaks down the team’s position groups on a daily basis heading into training camp, which begins with the first full-squad workout on Saturday. Today: Running backs, wide receivers and tight ends.
David Johnson answered one of the bigger questions facing the Cardinals entering training camp when the running back reported to camp early on Monday along with rookies, quarterbacks and other players like himself returning from an injury.
But now what?
After skipping the club’s mandatory three-day minicamp a month ago, will Johnson get the contract extension he seeks before the start of the season? If negotiations stall or freeze and he and his representatives feel as if nothing will get done, will Johnson remain in camp?
That’s probably a given. If Johnson were to leave and fail to report back by Aug. 7, under NFL rules he will not be credited with a full accrued season and thus won’t become an unrestricted free agent until after the 2019 season. Nobody that wants to get paid would be that foolish.
“I’m here to play football,” Johnson told the team’s website on Monday. “I trust my agency, Sportstars, and I know they’ll get it done when the time comes.
"All we know for sure is that he’s back and in his tweet announcing as such, said it’s “In (God’s) hands now.”
SOMERS: Johnson brings steadying force back to Cards after an unhappy offseason
Actually, it’s in the Cardinals’ hands and even though Johnson probably deserves a new deal, the Cardinals are under no obligation to pay him one cent more than the $1.88 million owed to him in the final year of his rookie contract. Johnson, though, wants to be rewarded for what he did in 2016, when he led the league in yards from scrimmage (2,118) and total touchdowns (20) and what he’s capable of doing going forward.
Johnson figures to be the most influential piece as to whether the Cardinals succeed in Steve Wilks’ first season as the team’s new head coach. Wilks has vowed to build this year’s team around an all-out ground assault featuring Johnson.
Now that he’s in camp, it’s all about getting entrenched into offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s system and game plan as quickly as possible. Once that happens, it’s a veritable assurance that he can expect to get anywhere from 20-25 carries a game, not to mention at least five to eight passes thrown to him per contest.
If Wilks is serious about employing a regular fullback to help block for Johnson – and the Cardinals brought in veteran Derrick Coleman to do exactly that – it will be interesting to see the impact on Johnson’s running style.
SCHEDULE: Cardinals to host 9 open training-camp practices, starting July 28
There is some decent depth behind Johnson in D.J. Foster and Elijhaa Penny, but it’s the playmaking ability of youngsters such as second-year pro T.J. Logan and rookie Chase Edmonds that could give the Cardinals extra options.
At wide receiver, the Cardinals remain in good hands with Larry Fitzgerald, who, at 34, is coming off the three most productive seasons of his 15-year NFL career. He’s averaged 108 receptions and more than 1,000 yards since 2015 and has shown no real signs of slowing down. It’s what’s behind him on the roster that remains uncertain.
There are at least three receivers vying for the No. 2 spot: holdover J.J. Nelson, free-agent addition Brice Butler and rookie Christian Kirk. Nelson has had his moments, but has yet to prove he can be consistent. Butler’s never been in a starring role. Kirk is seen as an eventual replacement for Fitzgerald, but he has yet to play a down in the NFL.
The unknowns include second-year pro Chad Williams, veteran Greg Little and a host of younger players. It’s a position group that must improve significantly if the Cardinals hope to enjoy their first winning season in three years.
On that front, it will be difficult to expect much out of the tight ends. It’s the weakest link in the chain at the moment, largely because there are only two recognizable names leading the unit and there are some question marks about both of them.
Veteran Jermaine Gresham is still recovering from a torn Achilles’ and will open camp on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list. Though his goal is to be ready for the season opener Sept. 9 against Washington, there is no guarantee that he will be back by then.
Ricky Seals-Jones was recently arrested after getting into a scuffle at a Scottsdale hotel. What began as an argument upon being denied permission to use a restroom ended with Seals-Jones being charged with assault, disorderly conduct and third-degree criminal trespassing. Police said he also appeared to be drunk.
Add it all up and Seals-Jones could be facing a suspension, which puts his availability into question. An undrafted free agent a year ago who caught 12 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns, Seals-Jones was being counted upon to take a major step in his development this year.
It’s not as if the Cardinals couldn’t use it. The depth at tight end is atrocious and just last week, the Cardinals waived one of the five backups they had – Beau Sandland – due to a non-football injury. That leaves them with Gabe Holmes, Bryce Williams, Alec Bloom, Andrew Vollert and Chris Bazile, who was signed to a one-year deal on Monday. Those five players have combined to appear in two NFL games and have no career receptions among them.
Normally, this is where General Manager Steve Keim would seize the moment and find a capable veteran or two to bolster the bunch. It’s what he does best. But he’s serving a five-week suspension following his guilty plea to an extreme DUI and he’s not minding the store. If the Cardinals want to improve their tight-end unit, Keim’s lieutenants will have to do it for him.
They’ll also be the ones responsible for dealing with David Johnson’s agents should they try to jumpstart negotiations with the club regarding a new deal. The good news is at least Johnson is present and accounted for now that some players have reported early to camp.
In addition to Gresham, the Cardinals also placed defensive end Markus Golden (knee) and rookie cornerback Chris Campbell (ankle) on the PUP list.The rest of the team is scheduled to report Friday.
The team's first open practice is Saturday.
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Reach McManaman at [email protected] Follow him on [email protected] and listen to him live every Tuesday afternoon between 3-6 on 1580-AM The Fanatic with Roc and Manuch and every Wednesday afternoon between 1-3 on Fox Sports 910-AM on The Freaks with Kenny and Crash.
Source : https://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/nfl/cardinals/2018/07/23/david-johnson-arizona-cardinals-training-camp/818922002/1243