TEMPE, Ariz. — Rashard Mendenhall, who missed the Arizona Cardinals’ win over the Atlanta Falcons due to a toe injury, will be back on the field Sunday as his team hosts the Houston Texans at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“I’m feeling good, just ready to get back out there,” Mendenhall said Friday.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Mendenhall will resume his role as the team’s starting running back, though that does not mean he can expect to see the bulk of the team’s carries. He has averaged just more than 13 carries per game this season, and has never received more than 17. Add in the emergence of rookie Andre Ellington, who torched the Falcons for 154 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, and you figure those numbers are not likely to go up. Sharing the running game duties with the rookie does not bother the veteran.
“He’s a dynamic player; he brings a lot to this offense and our backfield,” Mendenhall said. “I enjoy playing with him.”
Said Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin: “I’m sure after Andre’s last performance, he’s ready to go.”
Like Mendenhall, Goodwin believes the two backs complement each other well, which is why each can — and will — continue to have a role going forward.
“I think Rashard’s more of a hammer and he’s pretty good running downhill,” he said. “I think Andre can do it as well, but I think Andre gives you the elusiveness in space and stuff like that.”
Mendenhall was brought in with the hope that he could rediscover what made him one of the league’s better running backs from 2009-2011, when he tallied 3,309 yards on 794 carries (4.17 YPC) with 29 touchdowns. However, Mendenhall has struggled to get going with his new team, rushing for just 281 yards on 92 attempts, with an average of 3.1 yards per tote. If the season ended today, that mark would be the worst he’s posted since his rookie campaign.
“I feel good about how I’ve played and where I’ve been at,” he said when asked if now he can finally show people the ‘real’ Rashard Mendenhall. “I had to deal with some things, but that’s part of football and I’m just glad I feel better now.”