Steve Wilks is less than four months into his job as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals but he received a quick reminder as to what the team was missing last season.
The Cardinals had their first day of organized team activities on Tuesday, giving Wilks an up-close look at star running back David Johnson, who was lost for the season in Week 1 in 2017.
“I thought the first day was pretty good,” Wilks told the media after the first practice, via Mike Jurecki on Twitter. “When you look at certain guys, and I don’t want to get too excited, but David Johnson looked outstanding today. It’s good to have him back out there just flying around. The things that he’s doing right now is pretty exciting.”
Johnson was expected to be the focal point of Arizona’s offense a year ago following a spectacular sophomore season, only to suffer a fractured wrist in the season opener.
A third-round draft choice out of Northern Iowa in 2015, Johnson burst onto the NFL scene by joining Gayle Sayers as the only rookies with at least four rushing and four receiving touchdowns along with a kick return for a scorer.
Entrenched as the starter in 2016, Johnson rushed for 1,239 yards and amassed 16 touchdowns. He also caught 80 passes for 879 yards and four scores at Arizona had the league’s sixth-highest scoring offense (26.1 points).
The Cardinals averaged nearly eight points fewer last season and will enter 2018 needing to replace the retired Carson Palmer at quarterback, so Johnson will be expected to do the heavy lifting on offense.
Arizona did sign veteran QB Sam Bradford in free agency and traded up in the draft to select UCLA’s Josh Rosen, who also drew praise from Wilks on Tuesday.
“Some of his timing and his throws … were right on point,” said Wilks of Rosen, the No. 10 overall pick. “We got to continue to get better each and every day, which we will.”
Rosen also received a favorable early review from left tackle D.J. Humphries.
"He stepped into the huddle and had a lot of pizazz," said Humphries. "He didn't seem like he was choked up at all. His voice didn't crack. He wasn't talking low. He was excited. He asserted himself into the huddle, and I was excited to see that."