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Cardinals’ Futility at Running Back

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Today, Seth Cox and I are going to tag-team our analysis of the Cardinals poor use of its running back personnel. Seth will be outlining OC Mike McCoy’s history of sub-standard RB play, while I will be focusing a little more strictly on McCoy’s questionable use of the entire RB room.

First of all, it is very difficult to imagine that after 5 games, the Cardinals’ stud RB, David Johnson is not even averaging 50 yards per game on the ground. His rushing line is: 74/242/3.3/21/48.4. As Seth will graphically show you—-Johnson has been used almost exclusively as in inside the tackles runner. Defenses are loading the box, calling full-scale LB run blitzes and appear to know exactly when McCoy calls a run—-typically on the majority of 1st downs and almost always on 2nd and 10.

Equally troubling is how McCoy is under-utilizing Johnson in the passing game. There has been talk of moving Johnson around to throw to him off of motion and to line him up in the slot to take advantage of coverage mismatches. This type of creativity has been glaringly absent from the game plans to date. Johnson is only averaging 3 catches a game. The one time McCoy ran him on a corner route he scored a 30 yard TD. If you take away that one 30 yard reception, Johnson averages only 6.4 yards per catch in 14 receptions. For a player of his ability, that stat is alarming.

The Cardinals #2 RB, rookie Chase Edmonds is only averaging 2.8 yards per carry on 14 rushes, for an average of 7.8 yards per game. In 9 receptions, Edmonds has 39 yards for a 4.3 yards per catch average. That average would have improved had Edmonds not dropped a 3rd down flat pass versus the 49ers that was wide open with only one defender trailing him from the side.

To this point, Edmonds is an enigma. When Steve Keim drafted him, Keim said he likened Edmonds to a star NFL RB, but didn't say which one. Many fans seem to think Keim was referring to former Eagle Brian Westbrook, who was a dynamic dual threat. However, Edmonds’ patient, feel for the gap style is nothing like Westbrook’s. And Edmonds has yet to show an extra gear.

The Cardinals actually have a RB on their roster with that extra gear—-someone should perhaps re-introduce him to coaches Wilks and McCoy. His name is T.J. Logan. Logan is a no-nonsense downhill runner who hits the hole in a flash. In the pre-season, did we ever see a run like this from Chase Edmonds or any other RB not named David?

On this play, Logan is shot out of a cannon and not only does he hit the hole in a flash, he makes a good, quick deke on the FS that enables him to blaze into the end zone.

If you notice—-one of the main reasons why this play was a home run—-it was because the Cardinals were using a FB to isolate on the ILB. That FB (Elijhaa Penny), who was arguably the best and most physical blocker in the pre-season, is now playing for the New York Giants, who poached him off of the Cardinals’ practice squad.

Derrick Coleman, the FB whom the coaches kept, has been used sparingly—-but even on the few occasions he’s gotten into the game, he’s been used more as a receiver than blocker. In addition, McCoy uses Coleman on reverse FB dives in 3rd and short situations (which is a good play).

The Cardinals need a FB who is a blocker first and then a runner and receiver.

Again—-it’s hard to imagine that a healthy David Johnson is averaging a mere 56.4 all-purpose yards per game in 5 games. Chase Edmonds is averaging 12.1 all-purpose yards per game. And T.J. Logan has been watching the last few games from the sidelines as one of the inactives. Apparently the coaches believe that Brandon Williams is a better kickoff returner than Logan, even though Logan finished as the 4th all-time leader in all-purpose yards at North Carolina (4,926 yards) and was 2nd in the NCAA in kickoff return average his senior year (with a 32.9 average). In his college career, Logan scored 28 TDs—- 5 TDs on kickoff returns, 19 TDs rushing and 4 TDs receiving.