David Johnson can carry Josh Rosen and the Arizona Cardinals to a win over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5.
Josh Rosen won’t beat the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5. The Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback will need David Johnson to carry him to a first win in the NFL.
Johnson’s role in cooridnator Mike McCoy’s offense has been questioned for weeks. McCoy’s pass-heavy schemes have rendered one of the league’s best backs largely moot.
No. 31’s workload did increase against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4. Johnson’s 71 yards and 3.2 per carry weren’t particularly impressive, but the 22 times he carried the ball is a number the 49ers should fear.
The Niners have a plethora of first-round draft picks along their defensive front. DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas aren’t making much hay against the run, though.
San Fran’s D’ has given up 104.2 yards a game on the ground. Opposing runners are averaging four yards every time they tote the rock.
Melvin Gordon blew the latter number out of the water when he clocked 6.9 on 15 carries en route to 104 yards to help the Los Angeles Chargers win 29-27 last week.
Tackling has been an issue as running backs don’t often hit the deck easily against San Francisco:
Johnson is a load to bring down at 6’1″ and 224 pounds. The sight of him at full speed is enough to intimidate most would-be tacklers.
Johnson runs upright, keeps his knees high and is never shy about using a stiff-arm. The 49ers are going to have to bring the thump in pursuit, something they haven’t done often.
McCoy can make things easier for Johnson by deploying more of the run-friendly sets he called against the Seahawks. The Cardinals regularly stacked the line of scrimmage with multiple tight ends.
Jermaine Gresham and Gabe Holmes are tough to move as in-line blockers. Meanwhile, Ricky Seals-Jones can lock up defenders from the slot or out of bunch sets.
Loading the edges with tight ends will let the Cards double up inside. It would be a smart move against Buckner, the most dominant lineman the 49ers have.
Inside runs will bring joy for Johnson if fullback Derrick Coleman is in front of him. Coelman led the way when Johnson found the end zone from a yard out in Week 4.
The score put Johnson in select company:
Rosen proved he can read defenses even though the Cardinals were on the short end of a 20-17 scoreline against the Seahawks. It helped he was only sacked once by a Seattle unit missing the pressure Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril used to generate.
The Niners only have eight sacks to their credit, but Rosen isn’t ready yet to win a pro game by himself. It makes more sense for McCoy and head coach Steve Wilks to turn the offense over to its best weapon.
Johnson is a natural workhorse who needs multiple carries to build rhythm and work himself into a game. The 49ers have shown they can’t stop the run consistently, so the Cards don’t need to get cute about how they run to victory for the first time in the Rosen era.