RB Ed­monds build­ing off win vs. Pack

The Arizona Republic - - Sports - Kather­ine Fitzger­ald

Rookie run­ning Chase Ed­monds had his best game of the sea­son in the Car­di­nals’ win over the Pack­ers, and he started hear­ing about it from fans right away.

“Oh yeah, my men­tions were blow­ing up,” Ed­monds said Mon­day.

But they weren’t nec­es­sar­ily con­grat­u­la­tory. Ed­monds says that a lot of fans still ques­tion why he’s ever get­ting the ball in­stead of David John­son. He laughs as he tells that, though. He gets it.

“I’m a fan of foot­ball, so I un­der­stand it,” Ed­monds said. “To me, I just use it as mo­ti­va­tion, man. To one day have those fans be on my side, like ‘Oh! He’s not steal­ing David John­son’s fan­tasy points. He’s just help­ing out the team.’

“So I know how it goes: you’ve got to earn your keeps here. But I’m just go­ing to con­tinue to try to im­prove ev­ery sin­gle day.”

Ed­monds cer­tainly looked im­proved against Green Bay, and the run game as a whole fol­lowed. The team’s 182 rush­ing yards were a sea­son high, and just the sec­ond time this sea­son the Car­di­nals rushed for 100 yards or more. It was a well-rounded ef­fort.

“I’d like to say I con­trib­uted to that,” Josh Rosen joked on Wed­nes­day. The rookie quar­ter­back had a 33-yard scram­ble.

Wide re­ceiver Chris­tian Kirk added in 23 yards, but the bulk came from the Car­di­nals run­ning backs.

John­son led both teams with 69 yards on 20 car­ries. His backup was es­pe­cially ef­fec­tive.

Ed­monds was on the field for just 13 snaps, but got seven touches: five car­ries and two re­cep­tions. He

ended the day with 53 rush­ing yards, more than dou­bling his pre­vi­ous sea­son high, and two touch­downs, his first and sec­ond at the NFL level.

Ed­monds said the per­for­mance, cou­pled with the win on the road in Green Bay, ex­tended his con­fi­dence. With four games left, he wants to build on it a lit­tle more. Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor By­ron Leftwich doesn’t think that will be a huge jump.

“We’ve been see­ing Chase do this stuff day in and day out,” Leftwich said. “That’s what he’s done, that’s what he’s shown us that he is, and he just had op­por­tu­ni­ties. He had op­por­tu­ni­ties Sun­day to make those plays, and he can through for us, big.”

The op­por­tu­ni­ties are eas­ier to come by since Ed­monds can seam­lessly swap in for John­son.

“We don’t have to change the plays or think about a dif­fer­ent play when Chase is in,” John­son said.

It’s not just swap­ping the two, though. In­stead of strictly us­ing Ed­monds as a sub­sti­tute for John­son, the team is us­ing both run­ning backs on the field at the same time a lit­tle more, in what they call the pony pack­age.

Coach Steve Wilks has wit­nessed highly-suc­cess­ful schemes like that be­fore. While coach­ing in the NFC South, Wilks got a first-hand look at the Saints’ tan­dem duo of Mark In­gram and Alvin Ka­mara. He wants to get John­son and Ed­monds to that point, know­ing what it’s like to prep for that dual threat.

“I al­ways look at it from a de­fen­sive per­spec­tive,” Wilks said Mon­day. “To try to game plan against some­thing like that, to me, is hard. That’s what we have in David as well as Chase, a 1-2 punch with guys that can come in.

“As you can see, By­ron (Leftwich) is do­ing a tremen­dous job try­ing to get both of those guys on the field at the same time. It’s go­ing to cause prob­lems.”

Ed­monds thinks the NFL is trend­ing in a two-back di­rec­tion. Leftwich likes the flex­i­bil­ity, but he still plans to use John­son and Ed­monds dif­fer­ently from game to game.

“It’s all re­ally who you’re play­ing, right?” Leftwich said. “How do they re­spond to that pack­age? What cov­er­ages do they want to do to that pack­age? We’re not just blindly do­ing it, just throw­ing those two guys out there. We’re try­ing to put those guys out there for a rea­son, and they’re two of our bet­ter play­ers.”

John­son and Ed­monds are both com­pet­i­tive, but still sup­port­ive of each other. John­son was thrilled to see Ed­monds get his first NFL touch­down, a six-yard run in the sec­ond quar­ter.

“It was re­ally good to see him do so well,” John­son said. “It was sweet. It was re­ally cool. Just the way it hap­pened, him be­ing able to break a few of those tack­les. And it be­ing at Green Bay, at Lam­beau Field, with the el­e­ments. I bet he’ll never for­get that.”

John­son knows that bet­ter pro­duc­tion from Ed­monds helps the team. It makes it harder for the op­pos­ing team when both are on the field. Plus, the chance to ro­tate with the rookie helps both of them stay healthy dur­ing a gru­el­ing sea­son. He’s also root­ing for Ed­monds for other rea­sons.

The two run­ning backs both played at FCS schools: John­son at North­ern Iowa, Ed­monds at Ford­ham. Ed­monds wants to soak in learn­ing all he can from John­son, and John­son also sees him­self re­flected in the rookie in some ways.

“Oh yeah, I def­i­nitely feel that way, es­pe­cially af­ter talk­ing to him, see­ing how he al­ways has a chip on his shoul­der, and a lot of peo­ple have not looked at him as much com­ing out of col­lege, and how he wants to prove all those guys wrong,” John­son said. “That’s how I was com­ing out of col­lege.”

With that in mind, Ed­monds said it felt some­what full cir­cle to him to have a big game against the Pack­ers, a team with some deep ties to a fel­low Ford­ham alum: Vince Lom­bardi.

He heard from a num­ber of Ford­ham friends in the days af­ter, bal­anc­ing out some of the fan­tasy-foot­ball-minded heck­lers. Now, he’s get­ting ready for his next NFC North op­po­nent.

The Li­ons de­fense is al­low­ing 119.8 rush­ing yards per game. Af­ter putting up those 182 yards on the Pack­ers, Leftwich has a sim­ple goal for Ed­monds and John­son.

“Try to run it for 183,” Leftwich said.

In­jury re­port

In ad­di­tion to an­nounc­ing that line­backer Deone Bu­can­non (chest) has been ruled out of Sun­day’s game against the Li­ons and that safety Budda Baker (knee) is ques­tion­able and a game-time de­ci­sion, coach Steve Wilks al­luded to a pos­si­ble change at tackle on the Car­di­nals’ start­ing of­fen­sive line.

The plan ear­lier this week was for rookie Korey Cun­ning­ham to make his fourth con­sec­u­tive start at left tackle and for newly-signed Will Holden to make his sec­ond start at right tackle. How­ever, when Wilks was asked about the ad­di­tion this week of vet­eran tackle Joe Barks­dale and how he’s looked in prac­tice, it sounds like he may have sec­ond thoughts on who’s start­ing where.

“He looked great, to be hon­est,” Wilks said. “Again, un­der­stand­ing the sys­tem, com­ing from the Charg­ers, he knows the ter­mi­nol­ogy. I think he’s go­ing to be fine.”

Asked who he plans to start at right tackle, Wilks said, “Right now, I’m go­ing to wait and hold that until game time.”

The Li­ons listed line­backer Trevor Bates (an­kle) and run­ning back Ker­ryon John­son (knee) as out. Eight Detroit play­ers are listed as ques­tion­able, in­clud­ing start­ing QB Matthew Stafford (back).

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