Seemingly every chance they get, the Arizona Cardinals continue to boast about their belief in Chase Edmonds as their lead back. However, with Kenyan Drake now residing in Las Vegas and no legitimate back to complement Edmonds on the current roster, the team has opted to add some reinforcement at the position in the form of a 25-year-old former Pro Bowl starter.
On Tuesday, the Cardinals announced the signing of ex-Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner to a one-year deal.
Conner’s signing comes just one day after the team hosted the running back for a visit. Conner, who is recovering from a “very moderate” offseason toe surgery, underwent a physical on Monday, and clearly the Cards were happy with what they saw. Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Conner is expected to be 100% come June.
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Injuries Have Held Conner Back
Conner’s most prolific campaign came back in 2018 when the former third-round pick stepped in for holdout Le’Veon Bell. In 13 games (12 starts), Conner rushed for nearly 973 yards and added nearly another 500 yards on 55 receptions. The Pittsburgh product totaled 13 touchdowns on the season, culminating in his first and only Pro Bowl berth.
Conner has not been the same back over the past two seasons, as injuries have greatly hampered his production. Since 2019, the Pennsylvania native has appeared in a total of just 23 games, failing to eclipse 721 rushing yards in either year. Furthermore, he accounted for the same amount of touchdowns over that two-year span as he did in his 2018 campaign alone.
When right, Conner is a battering-ram running back who bolsters impressive receiving skills and a nose for the endzone. Can he re-emerge as that type of back moving forward? Only time will tell. With that said, age is certainly on his side. Yet, even his more recent form serves as a sizeable upgrade in the Cardinals’ backfield.
Aside from Edmonds, Arizona’s other three backs on the roster: Jonathan Ward, Eno Benjamin and Khalfani Muhammad, have combined for a total of just one touch (one reception for 11 yards) over their professional careers.
Cardinals are Prepared to Feature Chase Edmonds
While the addition of Conner certainly bolsters a position lacking depth, the Cardinals sound very much set with Chase Edmonds leading the charge in the backfield.
“I think Chase having this opportunity is going to be huge for him,” GM Steve Keim told reporters during a press conference this past week. “I think he’s shown the ability to be an excellent back in this league with his quickness and his run style.”
Keim isn’t the only member of the Cardinals’ organization singing the praises of the fourth-year all-purpose back.
“As far as Chase goes, you’ve seen when he’s had his opportunity, he’s played at a starting running back level,” Kingsbury said of Fordham product, via Pro Football Talk. “We all understand that he’s unfortunately been nicked up a couple times, which we want to keep him on the field. But we have all the confidence in the world in Chase and him being able to be the bell cow if that’s how this plays out.”
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