Arians: CJ2K to 'compete' for a starting role


The pecking order in Arizona's backfield is up for grabs.

One day after the Cardinals inked veteran free-agent Chris Johnson to a one-year deal, coach Bruce Arians refused to rule out the possibility of the former Titans star edging Andre Ellington for a starting role.

Click on team name for full report; click here for a complete archive.

"It all depends on him," Arians said of Johnson. "Come in, compete for a job, see where it falls."

The coach told reporters that his starter will be "determined after the preseason," but acknowledged that he's "open to anything" based on how his backs perform before September.

Darren Urban of the team's official website tweeted that he still expects Ellington to operate as the starter, with Arians emphasizing that Johnson won't be "promised anything."

Arians told reporters that Johnson and Ellington house "very similar" skill sets, saying he likes what he saw on tape from the runner formerly known as CJ2K.

"He's a home run every time he touches the ball. He's one of those guys who make you hold your breath," Arians said, adding that Johnson is also "an excellent receiver in and out of the backfield."

Johnson, though, was far from a home run last season. He's a shadow of the electrifying back who blazed through the NFL for 2,006 yards in 2009, but Johnson -- if healthy -- looms as a legitimate threat to Ellington, who ran for just 3.3 yards per tote as a full-time starter in 2014.

"There was nothing. Except for a bullet in his trap," Arians said of Johnson's team physical, which came five months after the runner was shot in the shoulder in March.

Ellington's build is prohibitive for workhorse duties, one reason the Cardinals signed CJ2K and also went out and drafted 6-foot-1, 224-pound David Johnson out of Northern Iowa. NFL Media's Mike Mayock praised the rookie's build and compared him to Le'Veon Bell for how he "catches the ball," but the younger Johnson has missed almost all of camp with a hamstring injury that's held him "way back," per Arians.

The Cardinals are looking to build a backfield that can stay healthy after Arizona's ground game bottomed out last season to finish as the second-worst unit in the NFL. It sounds as if Ellington, the younger Johnson and CJ2K all have a chance to reshape the workload.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down Week 1 of the preseason and kicks off a week's worth of spectacular fantasy insight.