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Rushing Efficiency Seems Sustainable For Cardinals

Kenyan Drake breaks off a run against the 49ers in 2019.
Kenyan Drake breaks off a run against the 49ers in 2019.

The Cardinals set a franchise record with 5.03 yards per carry last season, and while duplicating that could be tough, an efficient rushing attack seems sustainable again in 2020.

Here are the main reasons why more success on the ground should be the expectation:

  • Kenyan Drake returns after a breakout eight-game stretch with the team in 2019. Drake totaled 643 yards and eight touchdowns in his half-season in Arizona, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Football Outsiders had him rated as the third-most productive running back on a per-carry basis last season – and that included his mediocre numbers in Miami.
  • NextGenStats released 2019's expected rushing yards by offensive line on Wednesday, and the Cardinals ranked No. 3 in the NFL with an average of 4.5 yards per carry. Put simply, an average running back would have been expected to put up sterling numbers for the team last season, based on the holes created by the offensive line and the scheme. With the same coaching staff and linemen returning, optimism should reign about another season near the top of the leaderboard.
  • Kyler Murray will help boost the rushing numbers in two ways: by keeping the ball and using his elite speed to rip off chunk plays, and by occupying a defender on zone reads. The Murray-Drake pairing found a groove down the stretch and should only be more comfortable in 2020.

The NFL is a passing league, and the Cardinals will only reach elite status on offense if that portion improves, but an efficient running game is a nice feather in the cap, and the Cardinals have a favorable setup entering the season.