By the numbers: A look at Cardinals RB James Conner’s NFL career
The Arizona Cardinals solidified the running game Tuesday morning with the signing of former Pittsburgh Steeler James Conner.
Regarded as one of the top free agent options left on the market, Conner joins a Cardinals team looking to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 2015.
Paired with fellow running back Chase Edmonds, the Cardinals have a clear-cut one-two punch in the backfield.
But what exactly are the Cardinals getting in the running back?
Let’s take a closer look at his career, by the numbers:
While it’s a bit of culture shock for Conner, he reunites with former Steelers running backs coach James Saxon, who holds the same position with the Cardinals. Saxon was Conner’s coach for his first two seasons in the NFL. In 2018, Conner made the Pro Bowl after accumulating 973 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, 55 catches and 497 passing yards, all career highs. He also scored a receiving touchdown.
During his four-year career with the Steelers, Conner compiled nine 100-yard rushing performances. That ranks seventh all-time in Steelers franchise history. His best game came in 2018 in a 33-18 win over the Cleveland Browns. Conner put up 146 yards and two scores on 24 carries (six yards per attempt). It marked the third straight game Conner recorded at least 110 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught five balls for 66 yards.
Since being named a starter in 2018, Conner has scored 26 touchdowns. He’s rushed for 22 scores, while finding pay dirt four more times as a pass catcher.
Conner has yet to play a full season due to injury. He’s played at least 14 games just one time over the course of his career. He’s dealt with a torn MCL (2017), a high ankle sprain (2018) and an AC joint injury and quad strain (2019). He missed just one game in 2020 due to a quad issue but was sidelined twice more after testing positive for COVID-19.
Last season, Conner averaged 4.3 yards per carry, more than former Cardinals starter Kenyan Drake (4.0). Edmonds ended the year with a 4.6 average in a limited showing (97 carries). Conner has yet to finish a season under the 4.0-yards-per-attempt mark.
Known for his running abilities, Conner can also contribute in the passing game. During his time with the Steelers, Conner reeled in 124 of his 153 targets (81%) for 963 yards and four touchdowns. What doesn’t show up on the stat sheet is his blocking ability. Pro Football Focus gave Conner a 64.7 pass-blocking grade, good enough for 12th among NFL running backs.
Known for his power running, nearly half of Conner’s rushing yards (336) from last season came after contact. He accumulated 385 yards before contact. Conner has broken 42 total tackles since 2018.
It’s pretty rare to have a player stick around one area of the country for both college and the NFL. Let alone the same city. Before taking his talents to Arizona, Conner spent a total of eight years in Pittsburgh, playing collegiately for the Pitt Panthers before joining the Steelers in 2017.