First-Round RB Plans Private Workout with AZ

RB Edgerrin James (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

The Cardinals need a speedy running back to complement or replace Edgerrin James. Samantha Fillerup reports the team may have identified a frontrunner, as Arizona has scheduled a private workout with a first-round running back prospect for March 25. Find out more in this Cardinalinsider.com exclusive.

The Cardinals have arranged a private workout with running back Chris Johnson. Drafting Johnson would make sense for the Cardinals, who are in dire need of more big plays in the running game. Johnson, who led all running backs at the NFL Combine with a blistering 4.24-second 40-yard dash, is a big play waiting to happen.

Johnson (5'10", 201 pounds) played running back and wide receiver for East Carolina. In 2007, he carried 236 times for 1,423 yards (6.0 ypc) and 17 touchdowns. He also chipped in 528 yards and six TDs as a receiver.

So what will the Cardinals get if they tab Johnson with their first-round selection?

"They're going to get a player who's quick out the backfield, can hit the hole with great speed, runs hard, has great catching ability and great return ability. I'm a player who's a threat to get a touchdown every time I touch the ball," he said.


RB Chris Johnson
Nick de la Torre/AP

Johnson has everything it takes to be a top-notch running back: athleticism, agility, vision and lateral quickness. He's developed the patience to allow his blocks to develop and the toughness to pick up blitzes.

He has the speed and hands to split out wide and play some receiver. However, his ability to run between the tackles and protect the football makes him an elite running back prospect.

One issue for Johnson could be durability. He had neck surgery in 2006 and turf toe in 2007, which hampered his training and practice availability.

Nonetheless, Johnson is an explosive offensive weapon who can score from anywhere on the field. That is a much needed asset in the desert, as Edgerrin James seems to have left his burst back in Indianapolis.

James has averaged under 4 yards per carry each of the last two seasons. He has only four carries of 20-plus yards in his 661 rushes with the Cardinals. He hasn't delivered a run of 30 or more yards since moving to Arizona.

Johnson could keep James' legs fresh while injecting a dynamic element into the backfield. With the ability to caddy in 2008 and tee off in 2009, Johnson could be the perfect pick for GM Rod Graves when the Cardinals go on the clock with the No. 16 pick in the first round.

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