The Arizona Cardinals took a calculated risk signing running back Rashard Mendenhall, but it’s one that could pay dividends if the 25-year-old can realize his potential in Bruce Arians’ system.
Mendenhall will be reunited with his former Steelers offensive coordinator, whom he spent four seasons with in Pittsburgh. The two are believed to have a good rapport, which could prove to be a difference maker.
Steelers sideline analyst Craig Wolfley told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug & Wolf Thursday he likes the Mendenhall acquisition for the Cardinals, and he feels Arians is the ideal coach to get the best out of the talented running back.
“This guy is a guy who thinks,” Wolfley said. “He’s a guy who’s a pretty well-rounded person on and off the field. But here’s the other part of it, he’s also this guy who’s got a lot of wide-ranging interests and some of those intrigue him, and I think at times [Mendenhall] is one who cannot dot the I’s and cross the T’s in game prep when he’s kind of looking at some stuff, when he’s kind of engaging in different stuff.
“You’ve got a guy in Bruce Arians who really connects with [Mendenhall] and I think it’s a pretty good move as I look at it.”
Mendenhall was selected in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft by the Steelers. He enjoyed his best season in 2010 when he rushed for 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns. But, the past few seasons weren’t so kind to Mendenhall. He and the Steelers had their battles, resulting in Mendenhall losing his starting job at one point. In 2011, he tore his ACL in Week 17 and only played in six games.
The Cardinals inked Mendenhall to a one-year, $2.5 million deal, and Wolfley feels the terms of the deal will benefit Arizona.
“You’ve got the one-year, prove yourself young man,” Wolfley stated. “[Arians] knows what he’s got. He wants to make sure Rashard knows that it’s not a long leash. You got to come out smoking for me.”
And what Arians has, according to Wolfley, is a powerful back that can push the pile, jump cuts, and has the ability to be an explosive force.
“[Arians] understands Rashard and he knows [Mendenhall]’s a stud,” Wolfley stated. “The kid is a stud.”
However, it seems the Cardinals’ new running back can sometimes be his own worst enemy.
“Sometimes he gets into a rut where he starts overthinking things and that’s when you get [Arians] on him and he says ‘listen just whack the pile, just whack it’ and that’s what I like about this,” Wolfley said.
The Cardinals will see in due time if their gamble pays off.