Cardinals Running Backs Plan Post-OTA

Kliff Kingsbury expects 1-2 punch of Chase Edmonds and James Conner to push each other.
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There was no mention of a position battle nor concern for one from Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds following the team's OTA on Wednesday. 

Edmonds has played behind former Cardinals David Johnson and Kenyan Drake in his three years in the Valley, with spot starts mixed in due to injuries. Drake signed with the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason and the Cardinals did not add a replacement during the first several weeks of free agency or in the draft.

Management showed high confidence in Edmonds' ability to be a bell-cow for the first time in his career. On April 14, though, they signed former Steelers running back James Conner to a one-year contract. 

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury mentioned Wednesday that how he uses the two is something he is working through. 

"James brings a tough, physical, downhill running attack," Kingsbury said. "He's a proven tough-yard runner in this league since he got into it. The thing I like most about him and Chase is their approach to the game. They're as serious as can be out on that field. Ultra competitors and they're going to push each other and give us a real one-two punch that I think can really help us next season."

Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (29) rushes for a touchdown during the first half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.

Edmonds has been getting to know Conner recently, and the two seem to have hit it off. He said his mindset right now is trying to learn from Conner and get better as a runner and pass-catcher. 

The two play very different styles, with Conner being the heavier power back and Edmonds the quicker dual-threat as a runner and receiver. 

Edmonds has also been learning a lot from Conner off the field and vice versa.

"Everything in life is so much bigger than football, getting to know him as a man, getting to know his experiences, getting to know what he's been through in his life," Edmonds said. "Obviously, everyone knows his story, tremendous story (beat Hodgkin’s lymphoma while in college). So, really just anything I can learn from James and kind of just pick each other's minds, I'm sure it'll happen as our relationship grows as friends and as teammates. So I'm super excited for that."

Edmonds has been picking the brains of several Cardinals veteran additions from free agency, like defensive end J.J. Watt and center Rodney Hudson. 

He harped on the theme of team, and that his only concern is helping the Cardinals take another step whether that be playing or helping those around him

"I think Chase can do it all," Conner said in his introductory press conference in April. "And I believe I can do it also . . . His decision-making, his speed, he runs hard. That dog mentality, just like I got. So we're just going to roll."

Edmonds also used the "dog" metaphor on Wednesday when describing the running backs room as whole. 

Aside from the two veterans, Arizona has young running backs gunning for an opportunity to get on the field like 2020 undrafted free agent Jonathan Ward and 2020 seventh-round pick Eno Benjamin. Edmonds said that being in Year 4, he is trying to be more of a leader. 

"I like that we got hungry guys," Edmonds said. "A hungry dog always runs faster. And as long as you're hungry, and you're striving to become the best football player that you can be, you always improve. So that's something I love about our room, that we're trying to improve. We hold each other accountable to make the workouts, to do the work, to really work your tail off in the weight room."

The Cardinals have a three-day minicamp next week, training camp and then actual preseason games this year to figure out their strategy as far as roles and snap counts. But for now, improvement is the key word for their top returning rusher above all else.