David Johnson was questionable heading into Sunday's game for the Arizona Cardinals with an ankle injury after getting in a limited participation in practice late in the week. When inactives were ninety minutes before the Cardinals' 27-21 victory over the New York Giants, Johnson was not one of the team's inactive players. It was good news for the running back -- or so we thought.
Johnson took the second play of the game, a two-yard carry. He was never to be seen touching the football again as backup running back Chase Edmonds had 27 carries for 126 yards and three touchdowns in the win over the New York Giants. With the weather not ideal for throwing the football, Johnson and the Cardinals running backs were expected to get a lot of carries. The Cardinals ran the ball 28 times with their running backs. Johnson got the ball only once.
Did Johnson aggravate his injuries from the past two weeks? Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury upset plenty of fantasy football owners with his answer.
"Losing D.J. Foster late in the week in practice put us in a bind and we wanted to make sure Dave only played if we really needed him," Kingsbury said. "We were just being smart. It was a knee-based deal. Chase needed to be spelled, but we wanted to make sure Dave came (out of there) clean for later on in the season."
The Cardinals preserved Johnson on a day they had just two running backs active. Foster injured his hamstring during Thursday's practice and was ruled out by Friday, leaving Johnson and Edmonds as the only two active backs. If Foster didn't get injured there was a good chance Johnson wouldn't have played this week.
Kingsbury also admitted the Cardinals "would have just kept going with Chase" even if he struggled, so Johnson wasn't going to get any carries or targets regardless of Edmonds's performance.
Edmonds had a scare during the game as he was seen on the sidelines throwing up. Johnson went in for a few plays to relieve him and tried to wave Edmonds off, but he insisted on returning to the game.
"I want to look out for his career and his future," Edmonds said, via the Cardinals website. "He's so selfless. Dave would go out on one leg if he has to. I told him before the game, 'Bro, I know what type of guy you are, I know what type of player you are, just think of the future.'
"In a society and a world where players get criticized for contract talks or whatever the case may be, Dave earned all the money and all the fame he really has. I just didn't want to see all that taken away."
The Cardinals looked at the long-term health of Johnson instead of using him to win a game against the Giants, which had the 24th-ranked run defense in the NFL entering the game. Going with just one running back is unorthodox in today's NFL, but Kingsbury didn't have a choice.
A unique situation provided a positive result, at least for the Cardinals. Maybe not for fantasy football owners.