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David Johnson's three-touchdown performance lifts Cards over Jets

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There's a new name to include on the list of the NFL's top running backs.

David Johnson.

Usual spelling.

Johnson has been threatening to break into the group since late last season. Monday night he joined the likes of Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell and Buffalo's LeSean McCoy with a 111-yard, three-touchdown performance in front of a national TV audience in the Arizona Cardinals' 28-3 win over the New York Jets.

Johnson has shown all the traits of an elite back: speed, quickness, vision, feet, moves. He combined them all on a 58-yard run against a Jets defense that entered Monday night's game ranked No. 1 against the run.

"When you got a back like David Johnson, I mean, you got to feed him and he's going to make something happen," Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "He's just got a knack for the big play. You just got to feed him."

By running his way into the conversation of the NFL's best rushers, Johnson has done something Arizona hasn't seen in years. And years. And years.

He made a Cardinal one of the NFL's top running backs.

Arizona has had its share of big-name backs. Emmitt Smith and Edgerrin James come to mind, but both were at the end of their careers when they came to the Cardinals. The franchise's best running backs played from the 1940s to the 1980s.

The Cardinals' all-time leading rusher is Ottis Anderson, who played from 1979 to 1986, with 7,999 yards. Behind him is Johnson's current position coach, Stump Mitchell, who played from 1981-89 and ran for 4,649 yards. Third is Jim Otis, whose 3,863 yards were accumulated from 1973-78.

Then there was Charley Trippi, who rushed for 3,506 yards from 1947 to 1955. And backs like Johnny Roland, John David Crow, Garrison Hearst, Ernie Nevers and Ollie Matson can't be forgotten. Fitzgerald said he learned from his former coach and mentor Dennis Green to "never compare," so he wouldn't stack Johnson against any of the other Cardinal greats.

"David is special," Fitzgerald said. "He's got the makings of an outstanding player."

No modern-era running back is in Arizona's top eight for all-time yards. Johnson, who is in only his second NFL season, has the capability to join that group.

Arizona's last 1,000-yard rusher was Beanie Wells, who ran for 1,047 yards in 2011. Johnson might be the next. On Monday night, he joined Wells as the only Cardinals with three rushing touchdowns in multiple games since the franchise moved to Arizona in 1988, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

If Johnson stays healthy and continues to run like a locomotive, he can become the best Cardinals running back of all time.

"He's got a lot of God-given ability," Fitzgerald said. "I'm really fortunate to be able to watch him play. I'll be able to tell my sons one day I played with him."