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Emari Demercado Earns Time Around The Block

Rookie running back excels in pass protection, with a memorable chip against Niners

Running back Emari Demercado (31) is congratulated after scoring a touchdown Sunday.
Running back Emari Demercado (31) is congratulated after scoring a touchdown Sunday.

Standing at 5-foot-9, 215 pounds, Emari Demercado won't be the biggest or strongest player on the field each week.

But that doesn't mean he can't be physical, like on Sunday during a loss to the 49ers, laying a chip block on defensive end Nick Bosa that kept the 6-foot-4, 266 pounder on his back for a few seconds.

"We saw it on film that he's just unaware," Demercado said. "He's so focused on his pass rush, so just taking the opportunity to take my shot."

Demercado is a running back, and he does that well -- as shown by a 49-yard touchdown scamper against San Francisco. But he earned his way on the roster as a blocker.

James Conner was set as a starter when the season began. While Keaontay Ingram -- since released -- was originally No. 2, Demercado was getting playing time as a third-down back with his ability to protect the QB.

Coming out of TCU, the pass protection part of Demercado's skillset is what earned Jonathan Gannon's trust.

"He's been fantastic," Gannon said. "That's one of the reasons he is in on third down. His protection is huge on third down. That's part of his role of why he made the team in the first place is because of his value on third down."

Before missing a couple of games with a toe injury, Demercado emerged as RB2, embracing the underdog mindset and putting up decent numbers. In 11 games, Demercado has rushed for 274 yards with a pair of touchdowns on 56 attempts.

His involvement within pass protection won't provide stats, but it's allowed him to find a place on the field.

"You have to find your role and I think that's where I fit in," Demercado said. "Just learning the scheme and learning where I fit in and knowing my responsibilities and being willing and able to pick up those blocks. I think the protection has been solid. It's never going to be perfect. Obviously, we want to go out there and be perfect, but it's the real world."

Demercado said that the unit will continue to keep working on the pass blocking component of their game. Gannon agreed that the offense's pass blocking is "an area where collectively and individually our guys have improved." 

Sometimes, Demercado isn't just blocking on third down.

On first down, with a little over seven minutes remaining in the game, Demercado lined up right next to tackle Paris Johnson Jr. Both had eyes locked in on Bosa, an all-world pass rusher. Once quarterback Kyler Murray got the snap, Demercado hit the unsuspecting Bosa.

Johnson, one of the Cardinals biggest offensive lineman, didn't need to do anything on the play.

"I saw that, and you should've seen the face that (Bosa) made as soon as he got blown up," Johnson said. "It caught him off guard, but it was kind of cool to see that. But again, it's not the first instance where Emari has come out of nowhere, shocked a dude out of nowhere, and just made the block that much easier."

Demercado laughed when recounting the big block, adding that he and Bosa didn't say anything to each other after the moment. The pass pro element of his game is what separates him from the other two running backs in Conner and Michael Carter.

"He's a guy that when he makes a mistake, he can really self-correct it and doesn't make the same mistake twice," Gannon said. "Now he's back and playing really good football for us. It was really good by (general manager) Monti (Ossenfort) where we got him. I mean, I love the guy."