FOXBORO -- No one is higher on the abilities of David Johnson than the people who coach David Johnson. Arizona general manager Steve Keim said earlier this offseason that Cardinals coaches have compared Johnson to Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, and running backs coach Stump Mitchell has said that Johnson has the talent to one day enter Hall of Fame himself.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick rained on the Johnson-to-Faulk parade a bit earlier this week, but Arians doubled down on the comparison during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.
"I coached Marshall Faulk so I kind of know a little bit about him," Arians said. "What we asked him to do and what we ask David to do and Andre Ellington. We look for guys who are multi-threat backs, three-down players who don't have to come out of the game, who are very good in the passing game, pass-blocking and running.
"[Johnson] was very successful at kick returns, running routes, catching passes, running for touchdowns. He had a great rookie year. Thirteen touchdowns is pretty good so you'd think he's gonna have a great year, but injuries can derail everything. Looking to comparisons, not to say he's a Hall of Famer, I wouldn't say that, but he has the potential to do things like Marshall did."
While the Patriots may not see Johnson as a Faulk clone, they know they'll have their hands full with the talented second-year runner.
"He's really good at all of it," Belichick said earlier this week. "He's a big back. Kind of like [Brandon] Bolden, maybe a little bigger than Brandon, but a bigger back that has good speed, good passing-game skills. Good blitz pickup. He's a strong runner. He can get some tough yards. Run inside, run outside. Had a long kickoff return last year against the Bears. Hundred-and-whatever-it-was yards. He's got good long speed.
"Really he does an excellent job for them on all three downs -- four downs if they want to use him as a kickoff returner. It's a combination of his size, his playing speed, his quicknss. He's got good run vision. Smart kid. He's done a great job for them."