TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has a challenge most coaches would only wish for.
He has three starting running backs in his backfield.
On the other hand, he has the unenviable task of dividing one football multiple ways.
“It’s my job to get them the ball enough because they can all do different things,” Arians said.
With Chris Johnson re-signing with the Cardinals in March, the backfield tandem of David Johnson, who’s entering his second season, and Andre Ellington became a trio. All three have started for the Cardinals. All three have rushed for at least 581 yards in a season.
But with David Johnson's emergence in the final five games last year after Chris went down with a fractured tibia, he’s established himself as the Cardinals’ feature back.
“David’s earned the right now to be the bell cow,” Arians said. “Everybody’s got to take it from him. But Chris ran for 800 (yards) and probably would have had 1,200 had he stayed healthy. Andre can break the game open.”
David finished with 581 yards in his rookie season, 442 of which came in the final five games -- the third most in the NFL during that span. Chris had 814 yards, fourth most in the league at the time he went down.
Chris told ESPN last month that he’s not sure who will be the starter in 2016, but he and David can be a formidable combination.
“Not sure how things are going to go, but I’m pretty sure we’ll have a nice one-two punch,” Chris said. “He's got his certain things that he does very well and I have things that I do well. I think (Arians) will know how to get us both the ball.”
Then there will be Ellington, who missed three games early last season with a sprained PCL, then missed three more games later in the season with turf toe. He had 289 rushing yards, less than half of his next-lowest total of 652.
But with both Johnsons on the roster, Ellington won’t feel pressured into being Arizona’s No. 1 running option.
“It’s fun to have those guys back together,” Arians said. “Andre’s healthy. It’ll be a great competition in our backfield this year.”