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Run Game Key to Cardinals 2016 Playoff Hopes and Possible Future

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The Arizona Cardinals have built their offensive line up from the ground, and now it is the rushing attack that can lead them in 2016 and beyond.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013 when Bruce Arians and Steve Keim took the reigns the offensive line consisted of D'Anthony Batiste, Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein/Scott Wedgie (Sendlein spent the end of the season on IR), Adam Snyder and Bobbie Massie/Nate Potter. PFF ranked the line the worst of 2012 and after a 5-11 season Ken Whisenhunt and Rod Graves were rightfully fired.

This year, four years into Keim's Red Reign, the line consists of Jared Veldheer, Mike Iupati, probably AQ Shipley, Evan Mathis and most likely DJ Humphries. Comparing the two years the talent levels are obviously very different but the composition of the lineman are also very different.

Starting at draft picks, outside of Shipley, everyone slated to start of the 2016 squad is a third round pick or higher. In 2012 it was the opposite with Snyder and Colledge being third and second round picks respectively and everyone else coming in the 5th round or later.

The next big difference being the strengths of the offensive lineman. The 2016 group, excluding the unknown Humphries (who was strong in the run game in college), is known for their strength in the run game.

With the emergence of David Johnson, the resurrection of Chris Johnson and the obvious moves towards run first offensive line players, it appears that the Cardinals are banking on a strong run game in 2016.

While Carson Palmer and the Cardinals talented group of WRs are getting all the attention, it will likely be the Cardinals run game that sets the tone for the offense this year.

That dedication to the run game may also tilt Steve Keim's hand in regards to who the team covets of next year's free agents. The wide receiver position could see the most turnover. While Michael Floyd has all the tools to be a true #1 WR, it may be the Cardinals pass on paying him in lieu of WRs like John Brown and JJ Nelson, WRs who stretch the field and force defenses into tough spots.

If the theory stands pat, Floyd is only likely to be re-signed if he shows the ability to play the slot like Larry Fitzgerald and block like Fitz does. And that's if Larry doesn't take a pay cut to stay with the Cardinals beyond the 2016 season.

All speculation but it certainly appears that the Cardinals are gearing up to be a run first team this year and possibly for the years to come.