If the season started today, Rashard Mendenhall would be the Arizona Cardinals' starting running back. "There's no doubt," coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday in an interview on the NFL Network.
Mendenhall signed a one-year deal with Arizona this offseason and was expected to compete with Ryan Williams for the starting spot. Arians was Mendenhall's offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, so the running back knows the first-year head coach's offense.
"Rashard is just (26 years old)," Arians said. "He took me personally to a Super Bowl, and I know what he can bring to the table as a runner and a pass protector and also a receiver. He's an every-down player. And I think he's looking forward to having an outstanding season."
Mendenhall was Pittsburgh's first-round pick in 2008, and he broke out in his second season, when he ran for 1,108 yards. The next season, he was even more productive. He ran for 1,273 and 13 touchdowns.
But his play dropped off in 2012, and he struggled even more last season. He battled injuries, and that contributed to some of his issues. But he was also benched in favor of less established teammates and suspended by the team for Week 15. With Arizona, he should have a shot to revitalize his career. If new quarterback Carson Palmer and star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald can connect, Mendenhall should have running lanes. He can prove whether he still is among the top-10 running backs in the NFL.