Chase Edmonds has been the Cardinals' best backup running back for three years. The starting job now looks to be his to lose.
For all of Arizona's activity this offseason, the backfield was somewhat on the backburner. The team let Kenyan Drake walk one year after franchise tagging him and signed Steelers castoff James Conner. None of the Cardinals' seven draft picks in 2021 were running backs.
That leaves the 25-year-old Edmonds atop their depth chart heading into the summer.
"It's now or never," Edmonds said this week, per the team's official site. "I've finally got my opportunity really and truly in front of me to have a pretty big role in this offense. It's something I've been dying for, praying for, since my first three years in the NFL. It seemed like it would never happen, but I've finally got this opportunity, and I've got to make the most of it.
"I'm ready to run through a damn wall. I'm really ready to prove myself right. People don't understand how bad. I get what people are saying. I get the arguments and (expletive), but I really couldn't care less. I'm going to go out there and I'm going to ball out this year."
The Cardinals are certainly counting on him to. Holding the No. 16 overall pick, they passed on the opportunity to select Alabama's Najee Harris in favor of linebacker Zaven Collins. That might be the biggest endorsement of Edmonds, who's averaged 4.8 yards per carry in Kliff Kingsbury's offense. The question is, how will he handle a larger load?
Edmonds has just two games with more than 11 carries. He got 27 in a 2019 contest against the Giants, amassing a career-high 126 yards and three touchdowns. But he was injured a week later. In one of two starts last year, he rushed 25 times for 70 yards against the Dolphins. Those shortcomings have understandably produced skepticism about his viability as an every-down back.
The 5-foot-9, 210-pound Edmonds, a 2018 fourth-round draft pick out of FCS program Fordham, has heard it all before.
"I know there's doubts about my frame and about how little I am and about, 'Oh, he got injured when he had a full load,' or, 'Every time he gets a full load he doesn't produce the same way,'" Edmonds said. "I read it all, bro.
"I may not be your typical 20-carry guy. Not every running back is a 20-carry guy. But I believe I'm certainly capable of being a 20-touch type-of-guy. Whether that's 15 carries and five grabs, or 16 carries and four grabs. I feel like there's unique ways you can get a player the ball a decent amount of time, and it doesn't have to be a Derrick Henry or Nick Chubb style, just running up the middle. For people to believe I'm not that type of guy, that's their opinion, but I believe if I have 20 touches in a game, I can make some special things happen."
It would give the Cardinals yet another dimension in their multi-faceted offense. Kyler Murray has quickly established himself as the game's second-best running QB, behind Lamar Jackson. Conner (6-1, 233) is a bruiser who knows how to win in short-yardage situations and the red zone. Both he and Edmonds, who had 53 receptions last year, can contribute in the passing game.
What Arizona hasn't gotten the past few years is a full season's worth of solid production from its lead back. Edmonds has been waiting, too.