It’s no secret that Bruce Arians and the Arizona Cardinals’ offense will live and die with its passing game.
But on Friday, as quarterback Carson Palmer addressed the media gathered at Cardinals’ camp, he emphasized the importance of the team’s running game in the 2013-14 season.
“It’s hard to be successful if you don’t run the ball successfully,” said Palmer, who is in his fourth offense in as many years.
Palmer pointed out that, in order for his air attack to deliver the ball to Larry Fitzgerald and the other Cardinals’ receivers, the running attack must balance things out.
“There’s teams like New England who wing it around, throw it all the time, but they’re still effective running it, because they throw so well,” he explained. “I hope that’s where we’re headed.”
Last season, the Cardinals rushed for a league-low 1,204 yards, suffering from injuries in the back field, along with a lack of consistency and talent.
But offseason acquisition Rashard Mendenhall, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, along with a slew of rookies highlighted by Stanford product Stepfan Taylor, should help with ground production, the 33-year-old quarterback believes.
“Rashard Mendenhall has been very successful and there’s a couple of guys waiting right behind him who just want a chance,” said Palmer. “So it’s a good combination of the guys we have, the desire we’re going to have to run the ball.”
In an effort to contextualize the importance of the Cardinals’ running game, Palmer went on to point out the strength of the division, the need to keep the game clock rolling while trying to hold a lead and the value of supporting a good defense, like the one at University of Phoenix Stadium, with a solid rushing offense.
“When you have a good defensive team,” Palmer said, speaking of his own, which he praised intermittently throughout the press conference, “you’ve got to run the ball.
“You got a game where you got to carry an eight-minute, eight-point lead, it’s hard to do it throwing the ball because the clock is going to stop. And there’s times where we’re going to be in games this year where we’ll want to run the ball and we’ll have to run the ball.”
While Arians and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin will likely often use their backs as passing targets out of the backfield, Palmer was quick to clarify that such an attack wasn’t the type of approach he was highlighting.
“There’s some extended zone runs that are really passes, whether they’re quick screens or bubble screens or throw-back screens,” he said.
“I’m speaking more to snap the ball from under center, turn around, hand it off and pushing the line of scrimmage and moving people. That’s what you have to do at the end of games.”
Despite the unclear offensive line situation on the team, Palmer thinks such an up-the-gut attack is more than possible for his offense.
“Our guards are big and strong and physical and can move piles and move the line of scrimmage,” he said.
“When you play in this division, when you play against good defenses, you’re not going to just wing it all over the field. if you get a lead, you’ve got to hold it and a good way to do it is to run the ball and keep the clock rolling.”