Running back Andre Ellington searches for running room against the 49ers last Sunday.
Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin is a tough man to satisfy, so by saying he was "not displeased" with the offensive line performance in Sunday's win over the 49ers, it was actually a pretty high compliment.
The unit didn't give up a sack in pass protection, which was a vast improvement from last year. Goodwin is always on the lookout for ways to improve, though, and would like to perform better in the running game moving forward.
Andre Ellington had 18 carries for 62 yards against San Francisco and the Cardinals finished with an average of 3.1 yards per rush.
Ellington's final carry of the game was integral, as he burst 20 yards up the middle of the field for a first down which bled the clock under a minute. That's what Goodwin wants to see consistently.
"The thing I'm still pressing on them is more running yardage, more chunk plays in the run game," Goodwin said. "We have them in the passing game. Let's get more in the running game. Having a week off for (Ellington to rest his foot), the healthier he gets the better we're going to get in the run game, as well. We've just got to do a better job of finishing blocks."
Ellington has 46 carries for 206 yards this season – ninth-most in the NFL – and is averaging 4.5 yards per tote. He said the offensive line is doing a good job and that big plays are coming.
"We're going to eventually hit on it, no question," Ellington said. "It's a process. We're doing everything we can possibly do. The question is getting better at it."
Ellington's health is a key part of that equation as he still recuperates from the nagging foot injury. He hasn't missed a game but has been slowed. Ellington said he has most, but not all, of his regular explosiveness. He's unsure if the week of rest during the bye will return him to full strength.
"It's one of those injuries I've never experienced," Ellington said. "I was told resting it for a few weeks I'll feel better. I doubt that I'll be pain-free. I'll feel something. But as long as it's well enough for me to play, I'm good."
MATHIEU, TA'AMU SEARCHING FOR A SPARK
Safety Tyrann Mathieu and defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu each tore their anterior cruciate ligaments last December and returned from the physically unable to perform list on the same day at training camp.
While both have seen action this season, the Cardinals are waiting for them to return to last year's form. Mathieu played 15 snaps and had six tackles against San Francisco, but was not cutting it loose on the field.
"I think his is all mental," coach Bruce Arians said. "Read a book that tells you you're OK. It sounds crazy, but he just needs to know he's OK and trust the fact that he is OK."
Arians said it's unlikely Mathieu starts next week against the Broncos because safety Tony Jefferson and nickel cornerback Jerraud Powers are playing well, but he could see a snap increase to 30 or 35 because of Denver's pass-happy offense.
Ta'amu teamed with Dan Williams as an effective run-stuffing duo last year, but played sparingly the first two games and was made inactive against the 49ers. The Cardinals re-signed undrafted rookie defensive tackle Bruce Gaston on Wednesday, a player who fills a role similar to Ta'amu's.
"(Ta'amu) is healthy, but he's not where he was," Arians said. "It's just a matter of lighting the fire."
DT GASTON BROUGHT BACK, PARMELE CUT
Gaston was plucked from the Dolphins' practice squad. He was one of the Cardinals' final cuts of the preseason and was claimed by the Patriots. After he was cut in New England, Miami claimed him. The Dolphins cut him and added him to their practice squad Tuesday, only to have the Cards immediately come calling.
"He was a very active player for us," Arians said. "We really did not want to lose him. So, as soon as he became available – with the situations that we had with (two) punters, we were able to release Drew (Butler) and put him on our active list and add some depth to the nose, interior tackle situation."
To make room for Gaston, the Cardinals cut running back Jalen Parmele – the day after the Cardinals signed running back Marion Grice from the San Diego practice squad.
MARTIN IMPROVING AFTER SLOW START
Third-round pick Kareem Martin's NFL career began one game later than expected when he was made inactive for the season opener against the Chargers. It was his first time watching a game from the sidelines since his sophomore year of college, and served as proper motivation.
Martin has registered two tackles while rotating in at outside linebacker and defensive end the past two games, and while those numbers don't jump off the page, his performance on Sunday made Arians take notice.
"We kind of used him in an outside 'backer role," Arians said. "That was mainly for their running attack, but he ended up getting in nickel situations and rushed the passer fairly effectively, which he can do. It's nice to see him make that step. It will be hard to sit him down now."
Martin said defensive end Calais Campbell gave him a recent vote of confidence to the coaches.
"He believes I can ball," Martin said. "Having the captain of the D-line see that potential in you, knowing you can make an impact on the game, really means a lot."