PHOENIX — Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians channeled his inner Marshawn Lynch Wednesday morning when asked about Adrian Peterson being linked to his team.
“Are you trying to get me fined,” he asked, with an incredulous look on his face. “That’s tampering, dude. I can’t talk about another player. I ain’t saying jack about Adrian Peterson. I’d get fined for that. Nope.”
Can’t blame us for trying, right?
It’s actually not much of a surprise that Arians was reluctant to say anything about the running back, for a variety of reasons. While rumors continue to swirl around the six-time Pro Bowler and his supposed desire to leave the Twin Cities, as long as he’s not a member of the Cardinals.
Read into that what you want with regards to the Cardinals and possibly having interest in Peterson. Speaking at the NFC Coaches Breakfast during the annual NFL Meetings, Arians did talk about his team’s running game.
Last season, Arizona finished 31st in the NFL in rushing, gaining just 1,308 yards on the ground. Andre Ellington’s 660 yards led the team, with Kerwynn Williams’ 246 placing second and Stepfan Taylor’s 208 coming in third.
The team signed Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati away from the San Francisco 49ers to pair him with tackle Jared Veldheer on the left side of the line, and is moving other people around up front in an effort to run the ball better.
“That’s two truckloads coming down there on a double team; they should be dominant,” Arians said. “And they do take a lot of pride in it. I’ve only been left-handed running one time in my career, and that was in Indy a couple years ago with (Anthony) Castonzo, and it’s like, I don’t mind running left, I don’t mind telling you we’re coming over there. Stop it.
“That will be my challenge to those two guys: Come up to the line and tell them, ‘We’re running right here, stop us.'”
While there is no doubt better blocking will help, it will still be up to the running back — whoever it is — to run through whatever holes are provided.
And that’s where things are interesting going forward, with Ellington, Williams, Taylor, Marion Grice and Robert Hughes all seemingly in the mix, along with whoever else the team may add in the future.
Though Ellington struggled some last year, Arians said he still believes the third-year pro can be an every-down back, attributing last season’s issues to a “freaky, freaky injury.”
“He still had his touches,” the coach said. “What really set him back is he couldn’t evolve as the pass receiver.”
Arians said he could think of three times in the team’s loss to the Seahawks in Seattle where they missed out on big plays because Ellington wasn’t on the same page as the quarterback due to a lack of practice. Even still, the former sixth-round pick averaged nearly 21 touches per game last season, so it is not as if he had a light workload.
“His touches should not come down,” Arians added.
So, even while the Cardinals have been linked to Peterson, and if not him then some of the 2015 Draft’s top backs, it would appear the goal is to find someone to compliment Ellington, not replace him. Arians talked about how the team missed Jonathan Dwyer’s skillset last season.
“Yeah, we’re looking to hopefully find that,” he said. “Not just a big back, but a big, fast back.”
You know who is big and fast? That Peterson fella in Minnesota. But if he is not an option, then a player like him wouldn’t be a bad fit for the team, right?
“A player like him,” Arians asked. There’s not many around like him; he’s got the one in a million.”