It’s been a popular question posed to me recently, from fans and when I’m doing radio interviews: What’s the difference between this year’s team and last year’s pre-Palmer knee team? There are a few. But the most obvious — and the most important, in my opinion — is the Cardinals’ ability to run the football.
The Cardinals, with one game left, are sixth in the NFL with 126 yards a game rushing. This is a team that hasn’t ranked higher than 23th in rushing since 2005 and has been in the bottom three in rushing six times in that span — including last season, when they were 31st. Yes, injuries played a big factor in last year’s troubles. Still, the massive improvement isn’t just being healthy. In fact, like last year, Andre Ellington has been banged up much of this season. And the Cardinals lost Chris Johnson. But GM Steve Keim drafted David Johnson and made sure he had three capable runners. He signed very good run blocker Mike Iupati for his offensive line.
This is a team that got 814 yards rushing out of Chris Johnson — which was third in the league after 11 games, when CJ2K got hurt — and looks like they upgraded at the position with David Johnson. Don’t forget too, Ellington was off to a great start running the ball as starter in the season opener before he got hurt (Ellington only has 43 rushing attempts this season, but he has averaged an eye-popping 6.7 yards a carry.) David Johnson has 556 yards on 114 carries, 4.9 yards a tote.
Overall, the Cardinals need 110 yards rushing against the Seahawks to reach 2,000 rushing yards this season. (By comparison, the Cards rushed for 1,308 yards in 2014.) But 2,000? That’s a total this franchise hasn’t reached since 1988 — the first year the Cards were in Arizona. If only Drew Stanton didn’t have his 13 kneeldowns for minus-13 yards, right?
Tags: Andre Ellington, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Drew Stanton, Steve Keim
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