Cardinals’ Wilks defends use of RB Edmonds on key 3rd down vs. Bears

Sep 23, 2018, 7:31 PM | Updated: 9:17 pm

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Bilal Nichols, left, wraps up Arizona Cardinals running back Chase E...

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Bilal Nichols, left, wraps up Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (29) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Even with a lead, it turns out, the Arizona Cardinals still haven’t found their offensive identity.

More specifically, they’ve yet to consistently give running back David Johnson a steady diet, be it in the passing or rushing game.

First-year head coach Steve Wilks promised he wanted a down-hill, run-oriented attack in 2018, but through three losses, including a 16-14 defeat to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Johnson has been relatively M.I.A. for reasons mostly outside of his control.

In one of the biggest moments against Chicago, he wasn’t even on the field.

The Cardinals had just replaced starting quarterback Sam Bradford with rookie Josh Rosen, and at the Bears’ 45-yard line, it was rookie running back Chase Edmonds who lined up in the backfield on 3rd-and-2. He took a handoff with two minutes left in the game and was dropped for a three-yard loss.

“We have total confidence, number one, in Chase as well as David,” Wilks said after the game. “We got the call right there. I don’t think it was really who was in the game, it was penetration up front. Got to do a better job as far as blocking in that situation.”

The next play, Rosen threw an interception that sucked the momentum out of his debut. But the snap before that loomed larger afterward, be it for Johnson’s absence or the offensive line’s lack of blocking.

“That’s bad,” right guard Justin Pugh said. “We have to convert those.

“We are going to go back and look at the tape, judge ourselves and be critical as hell and go out there to perform next week.”

The lack of pop in the ground game has been a theme for Arizona, which rushed for just 53 yards on 2.9 yards per carry against the Bears.

The Cardinals entered the week averaging 61 rushing yards per game — second-worst in the NFL — mostly because they had ditched the ground attack looking to make up multi-touchdown deficits in their first two games.

Yet Johnson’s lack of impact compared to lofty expectation continues to be a trend. He took 12 carries for 31 yards against Chicago and caught four passes for 30 more yards, including a 21-yard touchdown to put Arizona ahead 14-0 with 1:40 to go in the first quarter.

Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy did use Johnson’s rushes to set up the play-action passing game. Bradford connected on three passes of 30 or more yards Sunday.

The first of which led to two big catches as Arizona scored a touchdown with a 75-yard opening drive. Johnson’s touchdown catch and a 32-yard strike from Bradford to Christian Kirk that set the Cardinals up on Chicago’s 23-yard line with 13 minutes to go also looked like a step forward.

“We were running the football, we were balanced and we used play-action, you know, and it was wide open,” Bradford said of connecting with Kirk, who had seven catches for 90 yards.

That success just didn’t happen enough.

Arizona had a 14-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but Bradford’s scramble and fumble just plays after hitting Kirk marked the end of his night as he was benched for Rosen.

While Wilks considers his options when it comes to the quarterback situation — he will watch tape to decide if Arizona will start Rosen or Bradford next week against Seattle — he knows for sure that the Cardinals need to iron out their rushing attack.

“I know personally I’ve got to do a better job of sustaining and finishing,” Pugh said. “I get on a guy and lose him late and instead of a five-, seven-yard gain, it’s a two-, three-yard gain.”

Presented By
Western Governors University

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals fans...

Arizona Sports

Did the Chargers GM tease a Cardinals draft-day trade?

The Cardinals are not looking for a quarterback, but Chargers GM Joe Horitz said his team could have its pick of the top non-QB in the draft.

19 hours ago

Monti Ossenfort speaks at the NFL Combine...

Tyler Drake

NFL mock draft tracker: What will the Cardinals do with the No. 4 pick?

A look at the players being mocked to the Arizona Cardinals at No. 4 overall in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

1 day ago

Arizona Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort talks to reporters...

Tyler Drake

Monti Ossenfort keeping trade options open as Cardinals’ draft board nears completion

The Arizona Cardinals have about 95% of their draft board completed about a week out from the NFL Draft and continue to look at all avenues.

2 days ago

Monti Ossenfort looks on during the 2023 NFL Draft Combine...

Tyler Drake

Daniel Jeremiah: NFL Draft is Cardinals’ moment to set up franchise for years to come

The 2024 NFL Draft marks a big set-your-franchise-up situation for the Arizona Cardinals, says NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah.

3 days ago

Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill speaks at a press conference...

Tyler Drake

Michael Bidwill: Cardinals ‘aligned on getting this thing right’ in 2024

Michael Bidwill believes the Cardinals aren't that far off from really turning things around under Jonathan Gannon and Monti Ossenfort.

4 days ago

Marvin Harrison Jr....

Nick Borgia

Marvin Harrison Jr. remains Cardinals top pick in latest ESPN mock

With the 2024 NFL draft just around the corner, ESPN's latest mock draft details what could be in store for the Cardinals' first six picks.

4 days ago

Cardinals’ Wilks defends use of RB Edmonds on key 3rd down vs. Bears