Chase Edmonds was called to take a first-team rep for the first time that day in May, and even though it was just an OTA, the rookie running back from Fordham knew its importance.
“I don’t get nervous in practices,” Edmonds said, “but that was the first time I was nervous.”
Edmonds heard quarterback Sam Bradford identify the middle linebacker – in this case, Deone Bucannon – and the defense lined up in a double-mug look, meaning linebackers stationed themselves on either side of the center, ready to bust up the middle.
“I am so worried about getting to the ‘A’ gap and getting to block Buc, I forgot the damn snap count,” Edmonds recalled after a recent training camp practice. “I hear ‘hut’ and I jump. I get taken out, of course.”
The play sticks with Edmonds to this day. He is a perfectionist. He had worked hard to make sure he forgives himself such mistakes. But the stakes have grown.
Coach Steve Wilks has talked about the open competition behind starter David Johnson at running back. Edmonds battles T.J. Logan and D.J. Foster on the depth chart for that role. But it has been 5-foot-9, 210-pound Edmonds who has basically worked with the second unit almost since OTAs began – and he’s been the one to take Johnson’s reps with the starters when Johnson was either being rested or, in the case of minicamp, when Johnson stayed home because of his contract situation.
“He’s a solid three-down back,” Wilks said of Edmonds. “I say that because he’s good in protection, so you’re not losing a lot. You can also split him in the slot and move him around a little bit. You may question his size but he’s pretty physical between the tackles.”
Wilks has said all along he doesn’t have a problem playing rookies if the situation warrants. The Cards found that out first-hand with the season-ending knee injury to starting center A.Q. Shipley, putting third-round pick Mason Cole in the lineup.
That hasn’t happened much in the last decade for the Cardinals, because previous coaches Ken Whisenhunt and Bruce Arians preferred not to use rookies as much.
“David always told me, ‘B.A. never played rookies,’ ” Edmonds said.
Edmonds figures to play, even if Johnson is healthy, assuming the depth chart remains unchanged. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has plays in which Edmonds and Johnson are on the field at the same time.
Johnson said he thinks Edmonds will be a “great” running back.
“I think he’s smarter than me when I was a rookie,” Johnson said.
That’s what Edmonds is pushing to show the coaching staff, that he is smart. That, he believes, is a big reason he’s getting the reps he is right now.
But Edmonds – the Patriot League’s all-time leading rusher – also has picked up Wilks’ narrative that the current depth chart is just “a piece of paper.” He wants to be in the same place in early September, when the preseason is played out and he’s clearly earned his chance to be Johnson’s sidekick.
The focus is apparent. Edmonds said after he jumped – the first time he had ever done so in his life, he said – running backs coach Kirby Wilson emphasized to him the need not only to eliminate the mistake but also to find a way to move on mentally.
The next time he took first-team reps? Edmonds said he did nothing spectacular. But he didn’t make the same mistake again.
“I can’t wait to see how I handle myself when I really have a down day,” Edmonds said. “That’s truly what speaks volumes about a player. You can’t just show a guy’s highlights and say, ‘This is that guy.’ How does he handle it when adversity hits?”
Images from Thursday's training camp practice