The Arizona Cardinals’ running backs have been mired with injuries in camp, which opened the door for rookie Stepfan Taylor to see more touches in Friday’s preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers.
With starting running back Rashard Mendenhall (patella tendinitis), third-year player Ryan Williams (knee) and fellow rookie Andre Ellington (concussion) still nursing injuries, Taylor rushed for 64 yards on 20 carries — averaging 3.2 yards per touch.
Taylor said head coach Bruce Arians has encouraged healthy competition amongst his backs.
“He’s telling us just to compete,” Taylor told Arizona Sports 620’s Burns & Gambo Tuesday. “Obviously he’s made it clear that Mendenhall is the starter but other then that I heard competing and I mean I am always going to compete for that top spot.”
The Cardinals’ fifth round pick seems to be taking Arians’ message to heart and is poised to make the most of the opportunity.
“It’s just in my mentality to be a competitor,” Taylor said. “So like I said I can only control what I can control and make sure the coaches have a good impression on me and that’s just understanding the playbook, eliminating mental mistakes in practices and showing them that they can trust me to put me on the field.”
The former Stanford product, who holds the university’s record for yards rushing (4,300) and touchdowns (45), certainly has the skill, football smarts and drive to succeed at the professional level.
And while he posted better numbers against the Packers than fellow back Alfonso Smith — 12 carries for 21 yards — the Cardinals’ rookie acknowledged the learning curve from the collegiate level to the NFL is steep.
“It’s definitely stronger, bigger, faster guys out there on the field,” Taylor stated. “After the first game you look back at film and you can definitely see improvements that could have been made and probably more yards could have been made.
“That first game I wanted to go out there and play fast and not scared and just go hit the hole. At the end of the day after watching the film there’s a lot of improvements to be made as a group, as a whole, and myself so I am excited for that.”
While Taylor knows his work is far from done, the rookie commended the Cardinals’ offensive line for their progress.
“I saw holes in the game so I just got to hit them and they do a good job of playing their techniques and staying true to the game plan that the coaches set for us and I feel like we’ve got a great team.