As Cardinals brace for David Johnson's prognosis, next man up won't be the same

Cardinals need Johnson to balance offense (1:18)

Jeff Saturday explains how concerned the Cardinals should be if David Johnson's injury turns out to be severe. (1:18)

DETROIT -- The question lingered, not just over the postgame news conferences or locker room interviews, but over the rest of the season.

How bad is David Johnson's wrist injury?

The information was sparse on Sunday afternoon following the Arizona Cardinals' 35-23 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. By the time the locker room was open to the media, Johnson's locker was cleaned out.

The future of the season, in many ways, is in limbo. Johnson had an X-ray on Sunday after he left the game in the third quarter with the injury, a source told ESPN. He reportedly did not break his wrist, but he will have an MRI on Monday, when the Cardinals hope to have some clarity, one way or another, about Johnson's short-term and long-term future.

In the meantime, the Cardinals dusted off the motto that has come in handy the past few seasons: It's time for the next man up.

That would be Kerwynn Williams, the second-string running back and primary return man who, once Johnson went out, became Arizona's primary rusher. While he's shifty and quick, he's no Johnson. Williams is listed as 5-foot-8 and 198 pounds. Johnson is 6-1 and 224 pounds.

Williams had 157 yards on 18 rushes last season, an average of 8.72 yards per carry. Before that, he had 388 career rushing yards.

Last season, Johnson had 1,239 rushing yards and led the NFL with 2,118 all-purpose yards.

Those are big shoes to fill.

"David is a huge part of this offense, a huge part of this team," receiver J.J. Nelson said. "Hopefully, we can get him back. Not sure what his injury is right now, but we got a lot of guys that can make plays and are capable.

"So, we'll see. If anything, he'll truly be missed. That's a Pro Bowl guy, an All-Pro. We'll see."

The worst case: Johnson misses the rest of the season.

The best case: He plays Sunday in Indianapolis.

He'll probably fall somewhere in between, but the Cardinals' offense will keep on rolling. However, as Nelson said, Johnson will be missed. He's a key -- maybe the key -- component of what Arizona does with the ball in its hands. He had 10 touches in the first half against the Lions -- but just seven after that. Even if Johnson doesn't touch the ball, he's still a factor. Teams have to know where he is on every play. They have to prepare.

If Johnson loses any time, the Cardinals will miss him greatly. They don't have another player who's that integral to both the passing and rushing game that defenses have to plan around.

It's easy for the Cardinals to say nothing will change, as tight end Jermaine Gresham said. The plays are the same. The calls are the same. It's just someone else doing it.

Yes, it's next man up. But that next man up won't be the same as David Johnson.