When Chase Edmonds had his exit interview with Kliff Kingsbury at the conclusion of last season, the conversation was promising.
The Cardinals' coach felt that Edmonds, even at just 5-foot-9 and 210 pounds, could be an every-down running back in the NFL.
Despite the vote of confidence, Edmonds watched the offseason moves with bated breath, aware that a major signing or prominent draft pick would change the calculus.
But the first wave of free agency came and went, and no running back was added, while starter Kenyan Drake left for the Raiders. Once the Cardinals bypassed the position in the draft, Edmonds knew he could exhale.
After three seasons showing promise as a backup to David Johnson and Drake, the 25-year-old will get his shot at becoming a starting NFL running back in 2021.
"It's now or never," Edmonds said in a phone interview on Wednesday. "I've finally got my opportunity really and truly in front of me to have a pretty big role in this offense. It's something I've been dying for, praying for, since my first three years in the NFL. It seemed like it would never happen, but I've finally got this opportunity, and I've got to make the most of it.
"I'm ready to run through a damn wall. I'm really ready to prove myself right. People don't understand how bad. I get what people are saying. I get the arguments and (expletive), but I really couldn't care less. I'm going to go out there and I'm going to ball out this year."
Edmonds was one of the Cardinals' most dynamic offensive players last season, carrying the ball 97 times for 448 yards and a touchdown while adding 53 receptions for 402 yards and four scores.
The former fourth-round pick has averaged 4.8 yards per rushing attempt in two seasons under Kingsbury, but has only carried the ball more than 11 times in a game twice in that span.
While his first showing as the main ballcarrier was sensational – 27 carries for 126 yards and three touchdowns against the Giants in 2019 – Edmonds got hurt the next game against the Saints.
Last year, he had only 70 rushing yards on 25 carries against the Dolphins in the lone game Drake missed, which has given critics reason to be dubious.
"I know there's doubts about my frame and about how little I am and about, 'Oh, he got injured when he had a full load,' or, 'Every time he gets a full load he doesn't produce the same way,'" Edmonds said. "I read it all, bro.
"I may not be your typical 20-carry guy. Not every running back is a 20-carry guy. But I believe I'm certainly capable of being a 20-touch type-of-guy. Whether that's 15 carries and five grabs, or 16 carries and four grabs. I feel like there's unique ways you can get a player the ball a decent amount of time, and it doesn't have to be a Derrick Henry or Nick Chubb style, just running up the middle. For people to believe I'm not that type of guy, that's their opinion, but I believe if I have 20 touches in a game, I can make some special things happen."
The Cardinals signed James Conner a few weeks into free agency as a big-back complement, and Edmonds is excited about the pairing. He believes the Cardinals needed someone with that skillset to do the short-yardage and between-the-tackles running.
"That's the beauty of football," Edmonds said. "It's such a team sport and everybody has to excel at their role. So you might not see me the last five minutes of the game, and I understand that. I understand you have to wear a team down where it's an eight-, nine-man box and he's able to take two guys for five yards. James can certainly do that, and I'm going to be right on the sidelines cheering."
As Edmonds watched the draft, he thought the Cardinals had three realistic options at No. 16 overall in the first round: trade down, take linebacker Zaven Collins or take running back Najee Harris.
When they went with Collins, it brought clarity.
"You add a veteran running back, it's like, 'OK, this team believes in me and has a role for me in the future,'" Edmonds said. "When you draft a first-round running back – it's a business, bro. He's the guy for the next four years."
Edmonds is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and if he can duplicate last year's efficiency while handling a bigger workload, it could mean a possible extension with the Cardinals and a boost to his bank account.
While Edmonds knows financial conversations loom, he's not dwelling on them.
"The contract year is the contract year," Edmonds said. "To me, it's all about the opportunity. I finally have the opportunity."
When Edmonds takes the field in 2021, he will do so wearing No. 2 on the back of his jersey. It harkens back to his glory days at Fordham, and is a reminder of where he wants to go in the NFL.
"In college I was 22, and everyone always called me 'Deuce' or 'Deuce-Deuce,'" Edmonds said. "To me, 29, I never really had an emotional attachment to it. It was a number that represented a backup-type of guy.
"I really want to take a jump, and when I was in my groove in the football world -- when I felt like I was the man -- it was 'Deuce.' That's what everyone called me. Now I went back to '2,' and hopefully I can change my life."
Images of the Cardinals' top ballcarriers during the regular season.