Running game has made Arizona Cardinals offense a viable unit in 2023

Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Drew Petzing has turned the team's ground game into one of the NFL's best.
Dallas Cowboys v Arizona Cardinals
Dallas Cowboys v Arizona Cardinals / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

The Arizona Cardinals made an outstanding move back in February when they hired a new architect for the team's offense. Drew Petzing, fresh off of a stint as the quarterbacks coach of the Cleveland Browns, would be bringing some new ideas to the desert. No longer would Cards fans have to put up with the "Air Raid" attack that was kicked to the curb when former head coach Kliff Kingsbury was fired back in January.

While the previous scheme revolved around the pass, what Petzing has brought to Arizona is quite the opposite. With the 36-year-old now in charge, the Redbirds are operating an offensive system that centers primarily around the ground game. And the results have been fantastic.

After five weeks, the Cardinals have the third-best rushing attack in the NFC. Led by the battering ram that is James Conner, the squad is averaging an eye-popping 143.2 yards per contest. To put that into perspective, only conference powerhouses like the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers have done better.

Arizona Cardinals need the rushing attack to remain at a high level while James Conner is sidelined

Unfortunately, Conner has once again been bitten by the injury bug. During a scintillating 35-yard run last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, the 28-year-old came up lame. Conner will miss at least the next four matchups because of a banged-up knee, but the good news is that the high-energy veteran is expected to return at some point this fall.

During the four and a half games that Conner has competed in, the 6 foot 1, 231 pounder has rushed for 364 yards and two scores. Cards quarterback Josh Dobbs has joined in on the fun as well. The 28-year-old has chipped in 142 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and also used his legs to make good on a two-point conversion back in Week 2 versus the New York Giants.

Petzing has also succeeded in getting wide receiver Rondale Moore involved in the Arizona running game. The 5 foot 7,181 pounder has amassed 116 rushing yards on just eight carries, and is averaging a mind-blowing 14.5 yards per tote. Moore's one and only touchdown in 2023 occurred when the 23-year-old took a handoff from Dobbs and raced 45 yards to paydirt against the Dallas Cowboys.

With Conner out, Petzing will lean on young backs like Emari Demercado and Keaontay Ingram to carry the load. Whether or not they can keep the momentum going remains to be seen. Any future offensive success that the Cardinals will be hoping to enjoy could depend on what Demercado and Ingram can contribute during the next month or so.


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