When one thinks of the 2022 Arizona Cardinals, the first thing that comes to mind is Kyler Murray.
Murray just signed a sweet new contract and is a two-time Pro Bowler in his first three NFL seasons. Murray is a transcendent athlete who dominates with his arm, as well as his legs. It's his dual-threat ability that opens up Arizona's offense.
Yet Murray's abilities as a runner went down in 2021, regressing from 819 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2020 to just 423 yards and five touchdowns last season. Murray's yards per carry also dipped from 6.2 to 4.8.
There are certainly differing reasons and ideas behind why it stopped, but there is hope it gets better in 2022.
Perhaps something that could boost Murray's rushing ability will be a more stable run game. While the Cardinals did amass the 2,000-yard rushing yard barrier as a team in 2021, their 4.2 YPC was near the bottom of the league.
Arizona also lost its second-leading rusher in Chase Edmonds (592) to free agency. While returning leader James Conner (752) is back for 2022, he averaged just 3.7 YPC a year ago and has yet to play a complete season.
Going into 2022, Conner remains the lead back with some intriguing depth behind him.
Third-year guys Eno Benjamin and Jonathan Ward, free agency add Darrel Williams, and rookie Keaontay Ingram gives the Cardinals a variety of different backs with complimentary styles to them.
The hope is that these guys can give Arizona a more consistent and explosive backfield in 2022.
Now headed into week one, we have our first look at the team's depth chart against the Kansas City Chiefs. To no one's surprise, Conner will be the top guy on the depth chart, but after that it gets interesting.
Benjamin and Williams have been listed as co-No. 2 backs for the team.
It's certainly intriguing that coach Kliff Kingsbury won't list one of those ahead of each other, but perhaps it's because both stood out in a good way this offseason.
"I do," said Kingsbury when asked if they had a sense of the running back rotation behind James Conner.
"I mean James is gonna play, and we're gonna be smart with him and not wear him out. But those other guys have earned playing time as well and we'll see where Ward fits in coming off that injury. But Eno [Benjamin] and Darrell [Williams] did a nice job this camp and then Key [Keaontay Ingram] had a great preseason and we're excited about his future."
We should expect a heavy dose of backfield rotation to keep everyone fresh given the injury history of guys like Conner and Ward. Given Benjamin and Williams don't have a distinctive edge over one another on the depth chart, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the two of them get equal touches and snaps throughout the first game to keep everyone fresh.
The name of the game is health for the Cardinals backfield, and with so many different options it shouldn't be a major concern, at least for now.
With the top three backs being some order of Conner, Benjamin, and Williams, Cardinals fans should have comfort knowing that this run game should be nice and consistent for the team in 2022. But for now, monitoring that backfield in week one will be fun.
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