ARIZONA CARDINALS

Advanced skills could land Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds a regular role

Aug 8, 2018, 11:43 AM
Arizona Cardinals' fourth-round draft pick Chase Edmonds (29) runs drills during rookie camp Friday...
Arizona Cardinals' fourth-round draft pick Chase Edmonds (29) runs drills during rookie camp Friday, May 11, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Cardinals coach Steve Wilks highlighted two skills when asked early in camp what he has seen from Chase Edmonds: The rookie’s patience as a runner and his proficiency in pass protection.

Both are skills that Edmonds honed at Fordham. The latter is a rarity in rookie running backs, but one that could get him on the field faster as the Cardinals search for a reliable backup to David Johnson.

“He was well-coached in college, you can tell,” Wilks said of Edmonds’ pass protection. “I think a lot of it is just really taking pride in it; his mindset of the physicality of stepping in there.”

That wasn’t always the case, Edmonds said.

“That was actually a knock on me early in college,” he said. “But the way we handled our pass pro at Fordham, the running back literally had to scan every play. As much as I hated it when I was younger, it helped me progress so much, knowing which blitzes are coming and the safety rotations.”

When Fordham running backs and special teams coach Shane Fogarty returned to the program after two years of coaching at Connecticut and Colby College, he inherited a sophomore running back whose main duties he said were already polished.

“He’s such a gifted athlete and such a smart kid,” Fogarty said. “He knew all the schemes, he knew all the plays. We were past that, but early in his career he didn’t play on third downs and he wanted to.

“I played quarterback so I focused on teaching him defenses. We would always talk about where the seventh guy is coming from. Where are the support players? We worked on it relentlessly and he knew those things by the end of his junior year. He knew blitzes, he knew protections, he knew the fronts, he knew where the safeties were and the disguises and stuff like that. That made him very good at who he was supposed to block and technique wise.”

Edmonds’ other gift, patience, came through film study and repetitions. Fogarty likes his backs to watch film of accomplished runners in the offseason and camp. Edmonds chose Ezekiel Elliott’s three seasons at Ohio State (2013-15) and searched for similar plays to see how Elliott attacked them.

Fogarty also encouraged his runners to watch the pros, so Edmonds locked in on the Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell.

“I love watching Le’Veon Bell. I love how he manipulates the defense,” Edmonds said. “I turn on his film and he slows the game down. It’s the same with a quarterback when you talk about a mental clock. With a quarterback, they have [a] clock where they feel that defensive end is coming and they’ve got to get the ball out of their hands.

“For me, a running back also has that clock. How long is too long? To me, Le’Veon Bell is the clock. The D sets to him. They don’t always come downhill because they know they have to respect each gap while he is running the ball. That’s what I love about him so much.”

Fogarty sees similarities in the way the two backs run, even if Bell is 6-foot-1, 225 pounds while Edmonds is 5-9, 205.

“It takes Bell so much longer than anybody else to get to the line of scrimmage, two seconds or something — 1.8 seconds, on average,” Fogarty said. “We run a zone scheme and you can do that, so Chase would have that patience and would see what blocks needed to occur.

“Because he knew the offensive line schemes so well and he knew the defense, he knew who was supposed to block whom so until that occurred, he waited. To give you an example, in inside zone, there’s a double team up to the linebacker. He knows that if he cuts back too quick, that linebacker is not going to get blocked so that patience developed and he has great vision. He just delays until the time is right.”

Wilks has made it clear that the rookies who make the roster will often have to make their mark on special teams. Edmonds knows this and has embraced the challenge.

“[Running backs] coach Kirby [Wilson] always tells us, ‘outside of No. 31 (David Johnson), nobody else is employed right now,’” Edmonds said. “You’ve got to go in with the mindset that I’m going to make the team because of special teams, not because of running back. Running back is a developmental position and your time will come, but you’ve got to continue to progress every day. What I try to do is progress on special teams and make an immediate impact there.”

Edmonds will surely have a role on that unit, but when the first depth chart was released this week ahead of the Cardinals’ first preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Edmonds was listed second on the running back depth chart, behind Johnson.

“He’s been doing a great job; Kirby’s been doing an outstanding job coaching him,” Wilks said. “I’m looking forward to him getting in there against someone else.”

The transition from college to pro is a large step for any player, but Fogarty believes the maturity Edmonds has gained from being a father to his 3-year-old daughter, Avery, the work he has put in to be a complete back, and his natural abilities have prepared him for this moment.

“I couldn’t be more excited for the guy,” Fogarty said, “He deserves everything he gets.”

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