Arizona Cardinals should stick with the same running backs group in 2024

James Conner, Michael Carter and Emari Demercado are more than capable of guiding the Arizona Cardinals rushing attack next season.
San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals / Norm Hall/GettyImages

It fairly obvious that the Arizona Cardinals will be looking to add a boatload of talent to the mix when the upcoming offseason rolls around. The timid approach that general manager Monti Ossenfort took toward the 2023 free-agent class simply can't be repeated. Building through the draft is definitely the intelligent way to go, but filling in roster holes with proven veterans can also be quite rewarding.

One segment of the squad that Ossenfort should leave well enough alone is the running back position. Drew Petzing, Arizona's first-year offensive coordinator, has installed a system that has allowed the top three ball-carriers on the squad's depth chart to excel. In fact, the intelligent move for the front office would be to keep the exact same group intact in 2024.

The acquisition of James Conner back in 2021 will go down as one of the best free-agent signings in Cardinals history. During his first campaign in the "Valley of the Sun", the 6 foot 1, 233 pounder totaled 1,127 yards from scrimmage and 18 total touchdowns. Conner followed up that Pro Bowl performance by amassing 782 rushing yards, 300 receiving yards (on 46 catches) and eight total scores for "Big Red" in 2022.

The outstanding production that the "Birdgang" has become accustomed to is continuing for Conner this fall. In his 10 starts thus far, the 28-year-old has rushed for 717 yards and five touchdowns, and is averaging a career-best 5.0 yards per carry. Conner has one campaign remaining on his current deal, and is well worth the $8.49 million he'll count against the organization's salary cap in '24.

Arizona Cardinals have a pair of exciting youngsters behind starting running back James Conner

A subtle move made by Ossenfort last month could ultimately turn out to be one of the first-year GM's best. This past Sunday, Michael Carter flashed the ability that initially got him noticed during his two-plus campaigns with the New York Jets. The 5 foot 8, 201 pounder carried the rock just three times, but one of the totes was an electrifying 19-yard romp through the San Francisco 49ers defense.

Carter is under contract with the Cards a year from now at an incredible bargain. As a former fourth-round draft pick of the Jets, the 24-year-old is set to earn a base salary of just $1.055 million next season. A speedster like Carter is the perfect complement for a battering ram like Conner, and there's a distinct possibility that the Florida native will remain in the desert beyond the '23 campaign.

Emari Demercado, another young back in the Arizona locker room, is also playing at a high level. During the team's 45-29 loss to the Niners, the 24-year old broke away for a 49-yard touchdown run late in the contest. It was Demercado's second score in what has been an incredibly promising rookie season for the undrafted rookie out of TCU.

The Cardinals are averaging an impressive 131.8 yards per game (7th-best in the NFL), with Conner leading the way. Carter and Demercado have done their part as well. There's no reason to believe that the threesome can't enjoy the same type of success when a new schedule kicks off next September.


(Statistics provided; Salary information provided by