GLENDALE (AP) – Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is building the Arizona Cardinals’ offense from scratch and, big surprise, David Johnson is figuring prominently in his plays.
“David’s a special back,” McCoy said after the Cardinals practiced in pads in muggy weather outdoors.
“You see how the offensive line worked together the first day in pads (on Monday),” McCoy said. “That was a positive, watching those guys and the way they all work together. We’ve got a long ways to go still but that’s what training camp is for. But we’re off to a good start.”
McCoy brings plenty of experience to work alongside first-year coach Steve Wilks. McCoy was head coach of the San Diego Chargers as well as two stints as offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos.
Johnson sat out minicamp in a contract dispute but came back for training camp and, as always, has impressed his coaches.
“I think everybody knows what kind of player he is,” McCoy said. “The way he played in the ‘16 season. He can do it all.”
Johnson led the NFL in yards from scrimmage in 2016 but broke his left wrist in last year’s opener and missed the remainder of the season. He’s fully healthy now.
McCoy said that most running backs are all right out of the backfield, “but he’s special.”
“He can run every route in the route tree a receiver runs,” McCoy said. “Are we going to do that with him? We’ll find out come the season, and you just love the way he works all the day.”
At quarterback, Sam Bradford is working on chemistry with his receivers, particularly Larry Fitzgerald, who has caught at least one pass from 17 different quarterbacks in his 14-year NFL career.
Bradford and Fitzgerald both were given a veteran’s day off from practice on Tuesday.
“He’s looked great,” McCoy said of Bradford. “He’s very intelligent. He goes through the progressions. You can watch thee veterans, different from a young player, when something’s not there and it breaks down, there’s no hesitation of where to go with the ball. Sam’s done a great job of running the show when he’s in there.”
Quarterback Josh Rosen, meanwhile, is going through a rookie learning curve.
“Josh is like every rookie,” McCoy said. “There’s the good days, there’s the good plays and there’s that one or two plays you look at and you say ‘OK, I know this is the first time you saw blitz zero with this play or this protection scheme, but didn’t we just go over it in the meeting?”
The offense will be designed to take advantage of what the players do best, McCoy said.
And it’s clear that he and Wilks want a physical running game.
“That’s what training camp’s for, really, for the running game,” McCoy said. “You try to become a physical football team in training camp.”
The Cardinals overhauled the offensive line. D.J. Humphries remains at left tackle, Mike Iupati is still the left guard and A.Q. Shipley is still the center. But the right side is occupied by a couple of free agent signees – Justin Pugh at right guard and Andre Smith at right tackle.
Now they’re strengths are being evaluated.
“Who is the best puller? Who are our best double-team guys? How do our tight ends block certain schemes?” McCoy said “So you find out a lot about your players. That’s our job as coaches is to make sure to find out what they do best.”
That’s especially true of quarterbacks.
If a quarterback doesn’t like a play that’s on the call sheet, McCoy said, “Give me that red pen, we’ll cross off those plays you don’t like and we’ll be OK if everyone believes in what we’re doing.”
The biggest competition on offense might be at wide receiver, where a handful of players are vying for the spots behind Fitzgerald.
That won’t sort itself out, most likely, until the end of preseason.