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Cardinals 'still value' David Johnson despite diminished role in 2019

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- By now, it's clear that unless he's traded this offseason, Cardinals running back David Johnson will be on the team in 2020.

In fact, this week at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, general manager Steve Keim said Johnson remained an important part of the Cardinals' plan.

"David's a guy that, because of his work ethic, because of his ability to create mismatches in the passing game, he's a guy that we still value," Keim said Tuesday.

But what can the Cardinals expect from the 28-year-old running back entering his sixth season?

Will it be the dominant running back who had more than 2,000 all-purpose yards in 2016? Or will it be the running back who has been unproductive and dealing with injuries the past three seasons?

Johnson is coming off the lowest production of his career. He had 130 touches, 715 all-purpose yards, six total touchdowns, 345 rushing yards and 370 receiving yards.

Keim says he believes that whichever version of Johnson shows up, he'll be playing next season with something to prove.

"I think that because of the success that Kenyan [Drake] had and because of the success Chase [Edmonds] had, I think that's something that will be a chip on his shoulder, that he's going to come back, going to play well.

"And, again, because of his skill set, he's such a big, talented athlete and we certainly think he can jump right back in and do some good things for us."

Johnson might be given a chance to do just that next season.

Kenyan Drake, who Arizona traded for in late October when injuries hit Johnson and Chase Edmonds, is scheduled to be a free agent, and it's still unknown if Arizona will re-sign him. If the Cardinals don't, Johnson could find himself with a significant role next season depending on they decide to pursue a running back in free agency or the draft.

"We feel like Chase and David did a tremendous job before they got hurt," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "When Kenyan got his opportunity, he seized it and ran with it. Chase and David are both tremendous backs with unique skill sets which we will definitely be able to maximize."

Kingsbury wants to see Johnson improve in two specific areas: consistency and staying health. Accomplishing both next season combined with a year in Kingsbury's offense already could lead to a big year for Johnson, his coach says he believes.

"He's been banged up for two years and I think just getting a feel for the game and running the ball -- we know he's a tremendous receiver, getting comfortable in our system, I think you'll see a completely different player if he can stay healthy," Kingsbury said.

But to be that "completely different player," Johnson will need to be more decisive as a runner, Keim said.

"He's a guy that's shown he can do it," Keim said. "David is one of those guys that maybe he thinks a little too much, if there was any issues there."