This bad – the Red Birds ranked dead last in the NFL in rushing.
The Cardinals will open their pre-season schedule today in Green Bay. In order to compete in the rugged NFC West during the regular season, Arizona must improve a rushing attack that averaged just 75.3 yards per game in 2012.
So what can Bruce Arians and company do to fix things? The additions of first round draft pick Jonathan Cooper and free agent tackle Eric Winston should help the offensive line immensely, along with the return of Levi Brown. Remember, the Red Birds also allowed a league-high 58 sacks last season. They have to make sure they keep new quarterback Carson Palmer upright as much as possible.
"You look at the statistics from last year and it’s got to get better in a hurry, bottom line,” Winston said about the offensive line via azcentral.com.
The Cardinals have never ranked higher than 22nd in the NFL in rushing yards per game since 2003. That's a long time. Arians is hoping that will change this season with the additions of former Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall and rookies Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington. The injury-plagued Ryan Williams, who is currently dealing with a knee injury, is facing a critical season. He needs to get healthy and produce for the Red Birds.
Winston knows what has to be done.
"All I know is that I’ve been a part of some pretty good running games,” Winston told azcentral.com, “and we’re all going to have to commit to it. Everyone on the field has got to grab a block and we’re going to have to open up some holes.”
Palmer realizes that a solid running game makes his job easier by keeping defenses honest.
“There are teams like New England that wing it around and throw all the time but are still effective running it because they throw it so well,” Palmer said. “I hope that’s where we’re headed because we have that potential. Our guards are big and strong, physical and can move piles and move line of scrimmages. Rashard Mendenhall has been very successful and there’s a couple guys right behind him waiting for their opportunities, so it’s a good combination of guys we have. So yeah, I think there’s a real desire to run the ball and a need to run the ball.”
Mendenhall, who had two 1,000-yard rushing campaigns with Pittsburgh, is excited to see how Arizona's running game plays out this upcoming season.
“The offense is very versatile,” Mendenhall said. “We work on a lot of passing, but we have a strong run package, screens, everything, so it’s versatile and I think each game will be its own game.”
If the Cardinals want to compete for the NFC West crown, improving the rushing attack is vitally important.
It can make or break their season.
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