BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Arizona Cardinals made a concerted effort in free agency, and through the draft to address their running game, which was, statistically, one of the worst in the NFL last season. They averaged 81.8 yards per game, and a league worst 3.29 yards per carry.
The team brought in one of the league’s best-run blocking guards in Mike Iupati to help strengthen the left side of Arizona’s offensive line along with left tackle Jared Veldheer. They also drafted running back David Johnson as someone that can compliment running back Andre Ellington. Johnson got a lot of work in the first and second team offenses during minicamp, and should get even more work once training camp starts in a few weeks.
In Arizona’s eyes, their running game is going to be much, much better than it was last season. Head coach Bruce Arians is all for making the ground attack a featured part of his offense.
NFL.com’s Marc Sessler ranked all 32 NFL teams’ backfields from best to worst, and he’s not too impressed with what the Cardinals have to offer talent wise; he has them slotted in at No. 27. Sessler believes only the Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have worse crews of running backs than the Cardinals have.
In terms of NFC West running games, Sessler feels the Cardinals’ group of Ellington, Johnson, Stepfan Taylor, Kerwynn Williams and Marion Grice is the worst of the four. The Seattle Seahawks’ running backs are No. 2 on his list; the San Francisco 49ers’ running backs come in at No. 17 and the St. Louis Rams’ crew of backs is 19th.
Arians says the “proof is in the pudding” when it comes to his runners. He says things will become a lot clearer once training camp comes around.
“David (Johnson) did a really good job with his opportunities with the other two guys (Taylor & Williams) in front of him hurt,” Arians said. “That’s usually what happens; an injury is an opportunity for somebody else. He’s made nice progress.”
“All those guys, they’ll have to pick up real blitzing linebackers with pads on,” Arians said. “They can all run (and) catch. That blitz pickup is a really big part for them.”