ARIZONA CARDINALS

With Kenyan Drake trade, Cardinals do another round of catching up RBs

Oct 28, 2019, 4:15 PM
Kenyan Drake #32 of the Miami Dolphins after defeating the New England Patriots 34-33 at Hard Rock ...
Kenyan Drake #32 of the Miami Dolphins after defeating the New England Patriots 34-33 at Hard Rock Stadium on December 9, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals running backs Zach Zenner and Alfred Morris got the long story short of the Kliff Kingsbury offense last week.

Signed to back up Chase Edmonds and active in case of emergency, the Cardinals were required to break the glass and put Zenner into the thick of things once Edmonds went down with a hamstring injury during the loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Now, after reports indicate both Edmonds and starter David Johnson will not be able to play on a short week, it’s Kenyan Drake’s turn to get the quick lesson on the NFL version of the Air Raid offense.

“I think Coach (James Saxon) does a great job (catching players up),” Kingsbury said Monday. ‘We really just try to keep it to what’s in the gameplan for that week and really limit it to what their plays are going to be. We try to simplify it as much as possible.”

Drake, who was acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins on Monday, is reportedly expected to receive the bulk of the carries based on how little experience Zenner and Morris have on him and his resume.

He’s rushed for 1,532 yards, 4.6 yards per tote and nine scores since the Dolphins took him in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

For Kingsbury, going into a divisional game on a short week with three backs that as of Monday were less than a week into learning his offense is, of course, not an ideal scenario.

“It’s tough,” Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray said. “Chase is the only back that’s been here that (was) playing. It was a one-two punch with him and Dave and then Dave being hurt, our guy, him being down is definitely tough. Guys got to step up.”

Drake, however, will at the very least force Arizona’s Thursday night opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, to gameplan around him.

“He’s explosive, I know that. (A) playmaker,” Murray said. “I think we’ll be fine. I trust the guys to step up and make plays and I think they will.”

The 25-year-old Drake also can bring a touch of what Johnson and Edmonds did as pass-catchers out of the backfield.

The Alabama product has 936 receiving yards in his three-plus-year NFL career thus far. Last season in Miami, he accounted for 477 receiving yards on top of his 535 rushing yards, scoring five of his nine touchdowns on passes.

“Played against Kenyan in college when he was at Alabama and, you know, he’s a dynamic player, tough guy, and can kind of do it all,” said receiver Christian Kirk, who played against Drake in the SEC at Texas A&M. “I think he’ll bring a dynamic kind of spark for us.

“I think Kenyan can come in and do some things that we need right now.”

One worry is that a running back learning on the fly isn’t ideal to pair with a young quarterback like Murray in the backfield. It comes down to concerns about the franchise quarterback’s own safety if there’s a mix-up in pass protecting or in the zone-read game.

Such a miscommunication showed Sunday, when Murray needed to put on the jets to elude a pass-rusher after he and Zenner went the opposite way on a potential hand-off attempt.

“I think more than anything it was loud, the atmosphere,” Kingsbury said. “Zach is a very smart football player. They were (talking) just making sure they were on the same page.”

Catching players up to speed on the offense with such frequency is a new thing for Kingsbury, the first-year NFL coach who has only been a head coach and play-caller in college.

“In college you’re like nine deep so you just keep rolling through,” Kingsbury said.

The Cardinals don’t have much choice.

After losing Johnson and Edmonds, and before sending third-stringer D.J. Foster to the IR with a hamstring injury, they dealt a conditional draft pick for Drake.

He’s a capable running back acquired the day before the trade deadline. High cost or not, it gives Arizona a better chance of pulling off the short-week upset of a 7-0 San Francisco team that just pelted the Carolina Panthers by a score of 51-13.

That’s the harsh reality of the NFL that Kingsbury, like Drake, will be learning on the fly this week.

Array

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury talks with quarterback Kyler Murray (1) during the sec...
Arizona Sports

Report: Oklahoma to target Cardinals’ Kingsbury for head coaching job

The Arizona Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury ahead of the 2019 season after he was the head coach at Texas Tech.
18 hours ago
Anquan Boldin #81 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers durin...
Sam Graveline

Former Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin named semifinalist for HOF Class of 2022

Among the 26 players who were named semifinalists for the Hall of Fame's class of 2022, former Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin made the cut.
18 hours ago
Colt McCoy #12 of the Arizona Cardinals looks to pass against the Seattle Seahawks during the secon...
Arizona Sports

Colt McCoy’s pair of wins starting for Arizona Cardinals: By the numbers

There are a handful of notable numbers to take away from Colt McCoy's two wins as a starter for the Arizona Cardinals.
6 days ago
Chandler Jones #55 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts after his tackle against the Seattle Seahawks du...
Tyler Drake

By the numbers: The Arizona Cardinals’ dominance during their 9-2 run

There's no doubting the Cardinals' success so far in 2021. A closer look at Arizona's impressive play through 11 games.
5 days ago
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - JULY 30: JJ Watt #99 of the Arizona Cardinals talks to Chandler Jones #55 durin...
Arizona Sports

Cardinals’ J.J. Watt pays for funeral costs of Waukesha parade victims

Cardinals' J.J. Watt paid honor to the people of the Waukesha parade tragedy in Wisconsin by covering the funeral costs for all six victims.
3 days ago
Arizona Cardinals players celebrate after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 23-13 at Lumen Field on No...
Tyler Drake

Cardinals’ 2021 road success vs. NFC West rivals that of teams past

The Arizona Cardinals haven't left anything up to chance when it comes to playing on the road in 2021, especially against the NFC West.
3 days ago
With Kenyan Drake trade, Cardinals do another round of catching up RBs