Byron Leftwich intends to unleash David Johnson

Arizona Cardinals

Misuse of David Johnson helped get Mike McCoy fired, but new Cardinals offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich plans to change that.

A mini-bye week after a game last Thursday night seemed like a good time for the Arizona Cardinals to change offensive coordinators, and Mike McCoy was fired last Friday. Quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich was promoted to offensive coordinator, with Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks expressing hope for a revival of running back David Johnson.

Johnson became a star in 2016, leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage (2,118) and touches (373-80 receptions) with 20 total touchdowns. A wrist injury in Week 1 last year cost him the rest of the season, but optimism was high for a healthy rebound by Johnson.

Johnson is averaging 19.4 carries and targets per game so far this season, which is a drop from 2016 (23.3 touches per game) that can be explained mostly by the Cardinals inability to sustain drives. He’s seeing the field plenty, ranking fourth among running backs in offensive snap percentage (83.6 percent) through seven weeks, so that’s not an issue. But McCoy fell far short in getting Johnson involved in the passing game (30 targets this season), and getting him the ball in space in general.

Leftwich will be charged with getting Johnson back on a productive track. When asked how much he would borrow from his previous boss, Bruce Arians, regarding Johnson’s usage, Leftwich was clear.

Arizona is currently last in the league in total (220.7 per game) and rushing yardage (64.6 yards per game), while sitting close to dead-last in passing and scoring offense (31st in the league in both), so the offense has nowhere to go but up. More involvement for wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (26 receptions for 255 yards and one touchdown) will help, and Leftwich has also hinted at that, but the centerpiece for any revival will be Johnson.

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Leftwich had a little extra time to review 2016 film of Johnson and figure out ways to deploy him similarly starting Sunday against the 49ers. So there’s hope for fantasy owners who drafted Johnson, and a very favorable schedule is coming as well.

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