Is it time for the Arizona Cardinals to move on from James Conner?
Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner has 30 carries on the season for 90 yards, totaling a whopping 3.0 yards per carry.
In 2021, the Arizona Cardinals signed James Conner to a prove-it deal. I cringed. Having watched Conner on a regular basis when he was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, I knew this acquisition was not going to be a pretty one, and that sometime down the road, the real James Conner would show up.
Last season, he had a good year from a statistical standpoint, scoring 18 total touchdowns. However, when you look closer at his numbers, he averaged just 3.7 yards per carry and he had 239 touches in 15 games, the second highest number of his career. In 2018, Conner also made the Pro Bowl, where he logged a career high 270 touches.
Conner is also injury prone. Entering his sixth year in the league, he never played a full season, appearing in a season-high 15 games in 2021. So is Conner a waste given his lack of production in the early stages of the year?
Arizona Cardinals need to place James Conner on a committee
Overall, Conner’s 15 rushing touchdowns and 53 first downs were no fluke. He scored 12 and logged 56 first downs in 2018. In 2020, he also found the end zone six times while reaching the first down marker 42 times in just 13 games with 204 touches.
The 27-year-old is no waste, but he has proven he is not a starting running back in this league. Yet head coach Kliff Kingsbury continues to pound the rock with Conner, as shown yesterday when he logged 39 yards on 13 carries.
Meanwhile Darrel Williams, who had himself a remarkable game in Week 2 when filling in for the injured Conner, had just one carry for seven yards. On the season, Williams has nine rushes for 66 yards. And while it isn’t a large sample size, he showed time and again he deserves a look to be the top running back on a committee that also features Eno Benjamin.
Unlike Conner, Williams also showed his durability last season, playing in all 17 games while starting seven of them. He carried the ball 144 times, rushing for 558 yards, 3.9 yards per carry, and six touchdowns. Williams was also more effective through the air than Conner in some aspects, hauling in 452 receiving yards over 47 catches plus two scores.
While the Cardinals don’t need to move on from Conner, they need to seriously consider limiting his number of carries. Then again, Kingsbury has made more questionable than rational decisions for most of his coaching tenure, so I’m not holding my breath that something will change here.
(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)