A couple of weeks ago when James Conner suffered the ankle injury against the Bengals that landed him on the IR for the ensuing 4 weeks, a number of Cardinals’ fans and pundits were claiming and lamenting that the RB cupboard was now bare.
I found those remarks about the RB room being bare a little odd considering how well Emari Demercado played versus the Bengals after James Conner was sidelined in the first half of the game. Emari rushed 10 times for 45 yards (4.5 ave.) and his 1st NFL TD.
Here is a video of all of Emari’s touches versus the Bengals:
It was then while watching Emari run hard and well versus the Bengals that I started to see a resemblance to former Cardinals’ RB Marcel Shipp.
Emari Demercado and Marcel Shipp came into the NFL as undrafted free agents and with similar physical traits —- roughly 5-10, 215 pounds.
Marcel Shipp came in with more impressive college numbers, having rushed for 5,383 career yards at UMass, plus 18 rushing TDs —-and a 3-time NCAA Division I-AA All-American, (2nd-Team in 1998 and 3rd-Team in 1999 and 2000).
On the other hand, Emari Demercado, who last year was initially the backup to Kendre Miller, was a late bloomer at TCU. For his career he rushed for 1,615 yards, 10 rushing TDs, plus tallied 227 receiving yards and 1 TD.
Emari’s breakout game came in the Fiesta Bowl (CFP Semi-final) at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, where he rushed for a career high 150 yards and TD versus Michigan. In the National Championship Game versus Georgia, Emari rushed 14 times for 59 yards (4.2 ave.) versus the Bulldogs’ vaunted defense.
Now that you have seen Emari’s touches versus the Bengals and his TCU highlights, compare what you saw to Marcel Shipp’s Cardinals’ highlights.
What impresses me about Emari Demercado and Marcel Shipp is how NFL ready they were coming into the NFL in terms of manifesting a patient, follow-your-blocks rushing style, strong, forward-leaning runs good hands for the passing game and the physical prowess to stonewall inside blitzers in their tracks.
Moreover, both Demercado and Shipp are the kind of physical running backs who get stronger the more you give them the football.
2023 Cardinals’ Rushing Stats:
- James Conner —- 68 carries for 364 yards (5.4 ave.) and 2 TDs Plus 30 yards receiving (3.0)
- Emari Demercado —- 29 carries for 117 yards (4.0 ave.) and 1 TD. Plus 63 yards receiving (5.7)
Last week versus the Seahawks, Emari rushed 13 times for 58 yards (4.5 ave.) and caught 4 passes for 17 yards (4.3 ave.). In the two games that Emari has been given 10+ carries (CIN and SEA):
23 carries for 103 yards (4.5 ave.) and 1 TD.
I believe that because of Emari Demercado’s diverse set of skills and precocious level of savvy —- he has the ability and the “it factor” to be the Cardinals’ RB2 for the next few years. He proved last week that he could be a force when asked to start. Rushing for 58 yards at 4.5 yards per carry is an impressive first start, considering this came against the NFL’s #1 rushing defense this season.
Furthermore, I believe that Emari Emercado is a very good compliment to James Conner the way Marcel Shipp was to Emmett Smith.
And, it just so happens that both Shipp and Emercado share the same Cardinals’ jersey number of 31.
It makes me wonder whether the Cardinals’ equipment managers or RB coach Autry Denson made the Emercado-Shipp connection and advised Emari to don it.
Or —- of course —- whether the number 31 assignment is purely serendipitous.