James Conner could end Cardinals 1,000-yard rusher drought

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) James Conner
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) James Conner /

James Conner has a chance of becoming the first Arizona Cardinals player since 2016 to register 1,000 yards rushing in a season.

For the past four seasons, the Arizona Cardinals have failed to produce a 1,000-yard rusher. That feat was last accomplished back in 2016 when second-year running back David Johnson totaled 1,239 yards in 16 starts for the Redbirds.

Now, five years later, a new Arizona ball-carrier could be on the verge of breaking that drought for the organization. James Conner, a free-agent pickup of the Cards back in April, has amassed 555 yards on the ground in 11 games for the team. What would the 6-foot-1, 233-pounder have to do over the final six matchups to reach that 1,000-yard plateau?

Conner would need to average 74.1 yards per contest over the remaining six weeks to get to the number. While that by no means seems to be an impossibility, there is a potential obstacle that could get in the way of Conner reaching the mark.

Three weeks ago, fourth-year ball-carrier Chase Edmonds was sidelined with an ankle injury. That led to an increased amount of carries for Conner, and the former Pittsburgh Steelers draft pick has taken full advantage of the opportunity. Edmonds is expected to be back sometime soon, however, and his return to the lineup will almost assuredly cut into Conner‘s playing time.

Arizona Cardinals getting workmanlike numbers out of James Conner in 2021

The 26-year-old Conner has built up his statistics in a workmanlike fashion thus far in 2021. His best outing came back in Week 9 when the veteran tallied 96 rushing yards versus the San Francisco 49ers. In Week 6, Conner galloped for 71 yards against the stout defense of the Cleveland Browns.

The following Sunday, Conner gained 64 yards during a blowout of the Houston Texans. Last weekend, during a win over the Seattle Seahawks, the Pennsylvania native rumbled for 62 yards.

Surprisingly, Conner has not yet enjoyed a 1000-yard campaign since he entered the league back in 2017. The closest he came was in 2018 when the former University of Pittsburgh product ran for 973 yards as a member of the Steelers.

Over the past few years, a couple of players came close to tallying 1000 rushing yards for the Cards. In 2020, Kenyan Drake totaled 955 yards in 15 appearances (13 starts) for the club. Two seasons before that, in 2018, Johnson was credited with 940 yards in 16 starts for an awful Arizona scoring attack.

Will Conner be able to gain the 445 rushing yards he needs to reach the goal? With all that the young man has had to overcome in his life, it may not be smart to bet against him.

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