Arizona Cardinals running game was pleasant surprise in 2019
The Arizona Cardinals rushing attack improved dramatically this past season under the guidance of offensive guru Kliff Kingsbury
For the better part of the 2019 offseason, the new offense that the Arizona Cardinals were installing was kept under wraps. Many believed that the system being implemented by head coach Kliff Kingsbury and his staff, the “Air Raid”, would rely heavily on the pass. How, and if, the Cards running backs would fit into such a scheme was a question that would need to be answered when the season got underway.
To the surprise of many, Arizona’s ball-carriers would go on to play a major role in Kingsbury’s gameplans throughout the year. Anyone who believed that the rushing attack would be a forgotten component of what the team would be executing on the offensive side of the ball were sadly mistaken. In fact, Kingsbury actually made heavy use of the Cardinals backs throughout the campaign.
The Cards running game really began to take flight in late October, thanks to a trade that was orchestrated by Steve Keim. For the price of a fifth-round draft pick, the general manager was able to pry Kenyan Drake away from the Miami Dolphins. The 25-year old has been magnificent from day one, and Arizona’s front office has to be thrilled with what Drake has been able to accomplish out of the backfield.
In eight games with the Cardinals, Drake has sliced and diced his way for 643 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Even more impressive is the 5.23 yards per carry that the 6’1, 211 pounder has averaged since he arrived in the desert. Drake is headed for free agency, but both player and management have indicated that they’d like to get a deal consummated sometime soon.
Before injuring his hamstring on October 27th, Chase Edmonds appeared to be on the verge of a huge season. The Cards fourth-round selection from a year ago had entered the campaign as a backup, but was making a bid for more playing time with his excellent performance. Drake’s arrival sent Edmonds back to the bench, but the 23-year old still ran for 303 yards and four scores in limited action, and averaged a sparkling 5.05 yards per tote.
Quarterback Kyler Murray‘s running ability was also utilized by Kingsbury throughout the fall. The rookie passer logged 93 carries for 544 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Only one NFL signal-caller, Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens, rushed for more yards than Murray in ’19.
The only Arizona runner that did not fare as well as his fellow teammates did in the “Air Raid” scheme was David Johnson. In 13 appearances, the 28-year old rumbled for 345 yards and two scores, but averaged just 3.67 yards per rushing attempt. By season’s end, Johnson was left standing on the sideline, with the newly-acquired Drake entrenched as the starter.
In just one year, the Cardinals rushing attack improved from 32nd-overall in the league in 2018 to a very respectable 10th-overall this past season. The squad averaged an outstanding 5.0 yards per carry, a number that was topped only by the Ravens. Perhaps “Ground Raid” is a much more suitable nickname for the offensive system that Kingsbury brought with him to the National Football League.