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Offseason Rewind: James Conner
Looking back at the arrival and season of the Pro Bowl running back
By Kevin Parrish Jr. Apr 06, 2022
Photographs By Arizona Cardinals

James Conner sported a red Cardinals jacket and fresh fade during his introductory press conference after signing a one-year deal last offseason with the organization in free agency.

Conner embraced a fresh start across the country after a down 2020 with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Cardinals believed Conner would be an excellent complement for Chase Edmonds in the backfield.

"I feel brand new," Conner said. " I'm excited for the opportunity to contribute to something I believe is on the rise. I feel my time in Pittsburgh prepared me for where I am now. It's a blessing."

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Conner and Edmonds were a good match. Conner spent the first half of the season picking up short-yardage first downs and gritty goal-line touchdowns.

But when Edmonds suffered an ankle injury during the Week 9 victory over the 49ers, Conner stepped into the lead role for the first time all season.

The running back understood the assignment and responded with a sensational performance, totaling 173 yards of offense and three touchdowns in the NFC West matchup.

"Just to see him (Chase) go down early; I knew they would lean on me heavily," Conner said. "God is the greatest. I tried to manifest myself having a big game and it happened. I had a great work of preparation and it showed."

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Conner became a focal point of the offense as Edmonds needed several weeks to recover from his injury.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury acknowledged during a November press conference how impressed he was with Conner's impact in the passing game. Quarterback Kyler Murray called Conner "a dog" after their Week 14 showdown with the Rams.

The 26-year-old totaled more than 1,100 yards from scrimmage on the season, tied for second in the NFL in rushing touchdowns (15) and had a career-high 18 total touchdowns. The impressive campaign resulted in Conner's second career Pro Bowl appearance.

"We've played him too many snaps since Chase has been out, but he's held up and done a tremendous job with those opportunities," Kingsbury said.

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The Cardinals have just one player in franchise history with more rushing touchdowns. David Johnson had 16 in 2016.

Conner received a nice payday before free agency started to remain in Arizona for the foreseeable future, after excelling on his prove-it contract in 2021.

Conner will cover the primary running back role heading into 2022, with Edmonds departing for the Miami Dolphins this offseason.

"My mindset next year is to work even harder," Conner said. "To be the best athlete I can be, score touchdowns, and help this team win ball games. That's the focus."

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