The Cardinals have an intriguing backfield for the 2014 season. Last year they used Mendenhall as the primary back, and sprinkled in Andre Ellington as a change of pace, receiving back, who played mostly out of shotgun.
This off-season, Mendenhall retired from the game, leaving the Cardinals with what seemed as though an obvious hole that would need to be filled, until of course, the Cardinals really didn’t make a huge move to improve the backfield via the draft or free agency. Their only addition was Jonathan Dwyer in free agency. Below I will project how the Cardinals backfield will shake out for the 2014 season.
Primary Starter: Jonathan Dwyer
Dwyer has had his ups and downs so far in the NFL. He hasn’t exactly played in the correct system, or really gotten too much of a chance to gain the majority of snaps, as he has either been a back-up or has split times with the likes of Isaac Redman or Felix Jones.
Bruce Arians will give the man a shot. He understands that Dwyer has the physical ability and the capacity to be the every down runner. Stepfan Taylor still needs to be groomed, and Andre Ellington is not a line it up in the I-formation, and run it down your throat type of guy by any stretch, so really, his only option is Dwyer. While Dwyer wont get the type of carries that most primary backs get, he will play on a lot of first downs, and in run situations.
They are going to still have a power running game this season, and Dwyer is the likely fit for that style of run game, and really the only viable fit on the roster currently.
Projected workload: 8-15 carries per game.
Chance of Pace/Second Primary: Andre Ellington
Ellington is the guy who will be the depth chart starter for this team. Basically, this means, he is the most talented guy, and the featured guy in the backfield. Dwyer will get the bulk of carries in run situations, but Ellington should get carries from shotgun, or pass plays, on outside run plays, and should see a lot of runs when they utilize the Halfback draw.
Ellington is a dynamic player, and will be used as a weapon in the rushing and the passing game for Bruce Arians squad.
Projected workload: 10-15 carries per game, 3-7 targets per game.
Initial Back-up: Stepfan Taylor
The Cardinals back-up will be the guy they choose to replace Jonathan Dwyer for. They do not need a back-up for Ellington, because he’s only going to play when he needs, and in certain roles. The need for a back-up will be to get production from the power run game, when Dwyer is ineffective or tired.
Stepfan Taylor is another power guy, who runs hard, and with elusiveness. Taylor should be solid in replacing Dwyer, and will get a short amount of carries, until he proves he has met his potential. Taylor will start off small, and could eventually replace Dwyer if he shows he has progressed.
Projected workload: 4-8 carries per game