Arians wants more from the third-year running back in 2017.
“I want to have 30 touches out of him, if possible, because that’s going to be a lot of offense,” Arians said Wednesday during the NFC coaches breakfast at the league’s annual meetings in Arizona. “When he has his hand on the ball, either as a wide receiver, coming out of the backfield, in the slot, and running, that’s a lot of potential offense for us.”
Johnson led the NFL with 373 touches last season, which produced league highs in yards from scrimmage (2,118) and touchdowns (20). For Arians to get his wish, Johnson will have to touch the ball seven more times per game, which could result in more than 2,700 yards from scrimmage and more than 25 touchdowns if Johnson produced at the same rate as he did last season.
But while Arians wants Johnson to get more touches, he wants to limit the number of Johnson’s carries. Johnson had 293 carries for 1,239 yards, compared to 80 catches for 879 yards.
“You go back and look, his number of carries wsdn’t that bad,” Arians said. “His number of touches, because he’s such a dynamic pass receiver, I don’t want those to go down at all.”
Arians, however, isn’t concerned about running the young back into the ground.
“He’s still too young to overuse,” Arians said.
Other tidbits from Arians’ comments Wednesday:
• While it’s likely, if not very likely, that Jared Veldheer will move from left tackle to right tackle next season, it’s not a done deal just yet, Arians said. “Right now it appears Jared is going to make that move. I haven’t been completely sold on it. I want to see him at that position first.”
• Second-year offensive lineman Evan Boehm will start at right guard from “the first day,” Arians said. “I think Evan Boehm, those last three ball games [of last season], showed he can play that position.”
• Robert Nkemdiche's ankle injury was more severe than the Cardinals knew, Arians said. A “slight tear” was discovered when Nkemdiche re-injured his ankle late in the season. “It’s all healed now,” Arians said.
• Arians does not regret saying Justin Bethel was a “failure in progress” on Dec. 12 when he was asked about Bethel’s progress as a cornerback. Arians said his next comment about Bethel’s injured foot affecting his development had been all but ignored after his highly charged comment. “It’s funny because his father came to practice that Saturday and grabbed me and said, ‘You trying to motivate my son?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’” Arians said. “He said, ‘I think it’s working.’”
• Arians said wide receiver Michael Floyd “dropped way too many balls” last season after saying he felt bad Floyd’s drunk-driving incident took place. “I love Mike,” Arians said. “I wish this would never have happened for him.”
• Arians has to continue wearing his sling for at least another month and said he’ll wear it during offseason practices as a precaution. He said his rotator cuff, which was surgically repaired recently after wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald injured it while hugging Arians during a Week 16 win at Seattle, is “doing great, surprisingly.” Arians said he doesn’t have trouble sleeping. “Everybody keeps giving me the horror stories but it’s been good so far.”