Heading into this off-season the running back position for the Arizona Cardinals seemed to be a question mark. This became more of a reality after allowing Kenyan Drake to walk during free agency.
After signing free agent James Conner, the running back depth chart remained undetermined. As we approached the NFL draft, the question arose, will Conner keep the Cardinals from drafting a running back? I realized, the answer was no. Chase Edmonds is the reason the Cardinals strayed away from selecting a rookie running back.
Edmonds did not have a historic season statistically in 2020, but he was efficient with the ball in his hands. The dynamic running back carried the ball 97 times for 448 yards, while reeling in 53 receptions for 402 yards and five touchdowns combined.
In terms of efficiency, Edmonds secured a first down on 22% of his rushing attempts, while 39% of his receptions went for first downs. In totality, close to 29% of his touches secured first downs. This speaks to his ability to keep the offense on schedule and ahead of the sticks.
What level of production could Edmonds offer with a clear path as the top running back? It seems that his chase for RB1 comes to an end ahead of the 2021 season. Conner is a big back compliment to Edmonds's shifty and versatile play style. Some may wonder, what does Edmonds offer as a lead back?
What does the film show?
I have a few clips displaying Chase Edmonds's abilities and what makes him worthy of the RB1 label for Arizona.
Kliff Kingsbury’s run concepts utilize a heavy dosage of inside zone out of open sets. Edmonds executes patience to manipulate the second-level defenders. He presses the hole and attacks the vacated lane.
The Cardinals run split zone action with the tight end leading across the formation to the backside defender. Edmonds’ patience makes this play a success. As he presses inside, he forces the inside backer to over-pursue and vacates his gap. Edmonds’ jump cut springs him into the open field and it becomes a footrace.
Chase Edmonds is not mentioned among the league's best pass-catching running backs but he deserves more recognition. Aligned in the slot at the top of the screen, he runs a simple go-route against the Jets zone. He is a difficult cover for most linebackers in space.
Again, Edmonds is aligned in the slot. Seattle drops into their zone coverage. Edmonds has good spatial awareness and understands to sit in the soft spot of their coverage. Despite his smaller frame, he is a tough player that will not go down without a fight.
Edmonds utilizes a delayed release and attacks the linebacker’s outside leverage before crossing his face. He offers quality run after catch ability. He breaks and slips through potential arm tackles for extra yardage.
Edmonds's vision and quick decision-making aid him to the open lane. He properly executes the read and cut technique. The safety is in the alley. Edmonds reads, presses the space, and cuts outside. He does a great job spotting the advantageous angle behind his near blockers.
Chase Edmonds is not the 220 pound downhill thumping running back. His versatility in the passing game adds good value for this offense. I imagine him facing lighter defensive fronts due to the added receiver talent. Kyler Murray trusts Edmonds as a security blanket and should not change in 2021. Edmonds’ pursuit to become a lead back has ended and he has earned this opportunity.