The Arizona Cardinals came into the 2017 season with one of the best running backs in the league. Drafted in 2015, David Johnson has already proven himself as a dual threat out of the backfield. The year did not go as planned due to injuries and poor offensive line play, but no position gets a free pass. Today we take a look at the running back room and dissect what happened and where changes can be made.
There were signs that the running back room would also serve as an infirmary in 2017. Before the season could get going with meaningful action, rookie running back T.J. Logan was lost for the season. Logan was selected late in the draft out of North Carolina but looked like a solid second or third string runner and the leading returner heading into the regular season. Logan was soon joined by Johnson. Johnson’s fractured wrist came in the season’s opening game.
The Cardinals attempted to address the massive loss at the position by trading for veteran Adrian Peterson. Peterson showed flashes of brilliance with big games against the Buccaneers and 49ers but struggled with consistency. Eventually Peterson would go down for the season with a neck injury. In total the Cardinals lost 36 games between the three injuries.
Shuffling the Deck
With Logan’s injury, the Cardinals slid Kerwynn Williams into the returner spot. Chris Johnson started as the backup in 2017. Peterson’s acquisition lead to Johnson’s release. Elijhaa Penny earned more playing time. Between Williams and Penny becoming more involved, Andre Ellington soon found himself without a job.
By midseason it was a room with Peterson as the starter followed by Williams and Penny. The run game continued on as it looked for consistency. Eventually Williams became the starter after Peterson’s injury. He and Penny became the one-punch for the Cardinals run game for the team’s final five games of 2017.
Better Next Year
Even with the injuries and inconsistent performances, the Cardinals run game looks poised to break out next season. Through the team’s first 11 games, the run game broke the century mark a total of three times. However, in the last five contests, the Cardinals rushed for more than 100 yards four times. The run game seemed to stabilize with Williams and Penny sharing the load. The game plan simplified and the offensive line began to gel.
In 2018 a healthy Johnson and Logan will add to the mix. Both players offer dynamic talents that can put points on the board in a hurry. The Cardinals will have a new coaching staff in 2018 but the playmakers remain the same. The biggest hurdle will be revamping the offensive line. That can happen through free agency and the draft. The running back room underwent multiple changes last season. In 2018 they will be stronger.