Whether James Conner is able to play in the season finale for the Cardinals is TBD, after the running back hurt his shin last weekend in Atlanta. Even if he does play, no, he won't come close to the 18 touchdowns he scored for the Cardinals in 2021.
But Conner, when all the circumstances are analyzed, might have had a better season this year. That's arguable, but what Conner has supplied, both tangibly and intangibly, remained an important part of the offense.
Conner has 782 yards rushing on 183 carries this season, gaining 30 more yards on 19 fewer carries than he did last season. His yards-per-carry is back to 4.3, after dipping to a career-low 3.7 last season. He has nine more receptions this season as well -- 46 catches for 300 yards. He has eight total touchdowns. He has been the offensive equivalent of Budda Baker and J.J. Watt, guys who never let up even as the season fizzled.
"We're still losing games," Conner said a couple of weeks ago, "but I'm still having fun with it."
What grabs the attention with Conner isn't the numbers. It's the way he runs, it's the embracing of the contact, it's the effort that never seems to change regardless of time and score (or record). The Cardinals need to find Conner a tag-team partner -- whether it's Keaontay Ingram or someone else -- so Conner doesn't have to take 90 percent of the snaps. But he has the kind of mentality you want on your roster, especially when the Cardinals try to reboot to however they are going to reboot for 2023.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited for next year's opportunity," Conner said. "I'm not the type who looks too far ahead ... but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited for next year and a fresh start. I'm already thinking about ways to improve and what needs to be done."