Bruce Arians confident David Johnson can handle larger load

David Johnson has been a big-play threat as a complementary player, so the Cardinals are hoping for him to produce even more as the primary running back. AP Photo/David Banks

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Next up: David Johnson.

The Arizona Cardinals rookie running is about to be thrust into a larger role with Tuesday’s decision by the team to put starting running back Chris Johnson on injured reserve with a designation to return. That means between Tuesday and Jan. 26 -- the earliest Chris Johnson will be eligible to play -- David Johnson will either be starting ahead of or backing up Andre Ellington.

And coach Bruce Arians is content with that decision.

“I have all the confidence in the world in him and him starting,” Arians said.

One reason for that belief is that Arians feels Johnson has improved his ball control. Johnson has fumbled three times this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and lost just one, on the opening kickoff against St. Louis on Oct. 4.

“David is working on his ball security,” Arians said. “He’s much better.”

With Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington playing ahead of him, David Johnson was able to ease his way into playing time as a rookie. But then he started his career like it was launched out of a cannon.

Johnson started the season with three touchdowns in his first two games, becoming the first player in NFL history to score rushing, receiving and kickoff-return touchdowns in the first two games of their career. After Week 5, he had six touchdowns.

But despite leading all rookies with eight touchdowns Johnson has still shown signs of the inexperience that accompanies rookies.

“He still struggles sometimes out in space, reading hots and blitzes, like most rookies do,” Arians said. “But he did a great job on the goal line (Sunday in San Francisco) by putting his foot into the ground and making that run for the touchdown.”

With David replacing Chris in the rotation, Arians won’t have to change much of what Arizona does run-wise in its scheme.

“David runs the same stuff extremely well,” Arians said. “Stepf[on Taylor] has gotten to that point where he can too, and Kerwynn [Williams] also.”

The Cardinals promoted Williams off the practice squad on Sunday.

Williams gives the Cardinals four active running backs heading into Sunday’s game at St. Louis, but Ellington has been dealing with a turf-toe injury and his status for the game is still being determined. Arians said Monday he could play with two running backs but “it’s not a real good feeling.”

“You could roll the dice,” Arians said. “I’ve done it.

“When one of them is the kickoff returner and he’s also on the punt team, you have to start shuffling guys around a lot of places.”