3 burning questions for the Arizona Cardinals at running back in 2023

The Arizona Cardinals could be thin at running back in 2023 if someone does not step in as a legitimate RB2 this season.
Jan 1, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner (6) runs against the
Jan 1, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner (6) runs against the / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals are looking to instill a run-heavy scheme in 2023 and this could help the running back unit excel. But on paper, only James Conner appears to be a reliable option at the position. That could change if Keaontay Ingram makes the jump, if Ty’Son Williams plays the way he did during his time in Baltimore in 2021, or if Emari Demercado proves to be a steal. 

But right now, this is a position group full of question marks, and there are even some regarding Conner. Let’s break down the three most burning questions at running back for the Redbirds.

3 major questions surrounding Arizona Cardinals running backs

1 - Is James Conner durable enough to be a featured back?

James Conner is approaching 28 and is entering his seventh year, an age and experience level when many running backs start to decline. Add in the fact that Conner has never stayed completely healthy in any season of his career, and you have to question whether it’s a good idea to roll with the guys they have behind Conner. 

In run-heavy offenses, it’s better to use a committee, and maybe that approach will be tried and will work in the desert. But with no proven NFL talent behind Conner, it’s more than just a small risk. 

2 - Who is most likely to step up as the RB2?

Though it’s a stark contrast from my most recent roster prediction, Ty’Son Williams is ironically the most likely candidate to step in, having played well during his time with the Baltimore Ravens, a team who also operates out of a run-heavy approach. In 2021, Williams appeared in 13 games for the Ravens and started three of them, carrying the ball 35 times for 185 yards (5.3 per carry), and a touchdown. 

At 6’0, 220 lbs, Williams also boasts enough size to run between the tackles. And while he will be 27 this season, Williams only has 14 games of NFL experience, so despite his age, he has far more left in the tank than many 27-year-old backs. 

3 - How many running backs will the Cardinals keep on the roster?

As it stands, the Arizona Cardinals have five running backs, and it wouldn’t surprise me if four of them stuck. While someone like Ty’Son Williams could step in as an RB2 this season and Conner, for once, could get through a year unscathed, Corey Clement makes a good special-teamer while either Keaontay Ingram or Emari Demercado could provide depth, keeping five backs essentially means the Cards are wasting one of their spots on the 53-man roster. 

Despite the fact I have Williams listed as the likeliest RB2, he is ironically the likeliest cut candidate if the Cards want to go with younger talent behind Conner, which would be Ingram and Demercado. Clement has the edge on special teams, which in such a case, would increase his value and leave Williams as the odd man out. 


(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)