Of all the pleasant surprises through three weeks of the season, Johnson's emergence as a valuable piece to a juggernaut offense is the most unlikely. The highlight reel below shows how Johnson is playing different he's playing.
This isn't about staying power as a "lead back." The Cardinals need Andre Ellington to get healthy and David Johnson should be a big part of this backfield. What Chris Johnson has already done -- with 150 yards from scrimmage Sunday -- is more than the Cardinals could have expected when they signed him for $870,00 in mid-August.
After years as an overpaid one-dimensional runner, CJ2K has a chance to finish out his career as a useful role player for an insanely fun offense.
Here are some of my other favorite pleasant surprises through three weeks:
O.G. Receivers: It's 2008 all over again, with Steve Smith and Larry Fitzgerald legitimately looking like top-shelf No. 1 wideouts again. Both players rank in the top five in receiving yards alongside much younger stars. Smith showed off ridiculous power and toughness on multiple plays Sunday against the Bengals while racking up 186 yards. He fights off every defender as if he'll have to retire the minute he hits the ground. He's the oldest player ever to produce at least 10 receptions for 150+ yards in two straight games.
Fitzgerald is similarly rugged. He finally has another franchise quarterback worthy of his skills. He's making diving catches and outrageous grabs while being well covered. He's always open because he doesn't need to be open to make catches. Carson Palmer knows.
Sean Lee's move to weakside linebacker: Perhaps we shouldn't be so surprised. But there was no telling how Lee would play at a new position coming off another serious injury. He looks like an evolutionary Derrick Brooks or Lance Briggs. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli funnels the defense through Lee, and he is playing like an All Pro.
Andy Dalton deep strikes: Dalton has enjoyed hot streaks before. The difference this year is that he's attempting -- and completing -- far more vertical passes. Dalton is completing highlight reel tosses on a weekly basis. It's weird. He's also making good decisions on when to run.
Give offensive coordinator Hue Jackson a lot of credit. Despite some miscues and a blown lead Sunday against Baltimore, Jackson kept dialing up big plays at the biggest moments. Dalton didn't flinch, and he's supported by perhaps the most talented group of teammates in the league. When the Bengals get pushed now, they push back.
The "other" guys on Seattle and Denver's defenses: The Broncos are the most fun defense in the league to watch, and should challenge the Seahawks as the NFL's top defense. DeMarcus Ware has been the best pure pass rusher in football through three weeks and Von Miller isn't far behind. The starting cornerbacks are outstanding, but we knew that.
The Patriots offense is better: Three rookie starting offensive linemen and a ton of preseason injuries had dumb folks like me wondering if the Patriots' offense would start the season slow. Instead, Tom Brady has improbably improved on last year's championship offense through three weeks. They are calling plays even more aggressively and have added a new prime weapon to the mix.
Dion Lewis could be the closest thing to an every-down back in New England since Corey Dillon. As Chris Wesseling wrote last week, Lewis is too valuable to take off the field. Bill Belichick tellingly rested Lewis extensively for the first time Sunday once the team was way ahead. He was too valuable to keep playing.
The Derek Carr-Bill Musgrave marriage: Last season, the Raiders' offense asked Carr to dink and dunk to a ridiculous extreme. Now the talent around Carr is better with Crabtree and Amari Cooper, and the playcalling is far more aggressive. No other trio of teammates in NFL history that was each aged 25 or younger had as many passing, rushing and receiving yards, respectively, as Carr, Latavius Murray and Cooper had in Week 3 against Cleveland. They were nearly as explosive against Baltimore the week before. Oakland is relevant for the first time since Hue Jackson and Palmer were roaming the Black Hole.
The Falcons are watchable: Mike Smith's Falcons were a bore, despite the presence of Julio Jones and Matt Ryan. New Falcons coach Dan Quinn, with a huge assist from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, has made the team fun again. As Dan Hanzus mentioned in our podcast Sunday, Jones is having the type of season where he gets recognized as best of the best at receiver. Ryan, who never left the top-10 quarterbacks, is finally supported again by a running game and a sentient defense.