Arizona Cardinals’ OC: Rashard Mendenhall ‘back to what I remember’ from Pittsburgh

Dec 6, 2013, 12:40 AM | Updated: 12:40 am

TEMPE, Ariz. — When it was learned Andre Ellington would not be available for the Arizona Cardinals last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, some wondered if the team would be able to continue to have success on the ground.

After all, the rookie was the team’s leading rusher and most dynamic threat on the ground, and not having him available would leave the bulk of the carries for veteran Rashard Mendenhall.

Signed to a one-year contract as a free agent, the former Pittsburgh Steeler had struggled to make a noticeable impact this season, though he had one of his more productive games the week before when he gained 54 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries while adding one reception for 24 yards against the Indianapolis Colts.

Mendenhall was handed the ball 18 times against the Eagles, and he gained a healthy 76 yards on those carries. In fact, if it was up to Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, the veteran would have had more carries than that.

“Yeah, I was really pleased with the way he ran the football two weeks in a row,” Arians said. “We got behind and couldn’t stay with it.”

Mendenhall has averaged more than four yards per carry just four times this season, though two of those instances have occurred in the last two games. Is he finally healthy after battling knee and toe injuries during the season? Is the offensive line opening more holes for him to run through? Is an improved passing game forcing defenses to focus more on the receivers and less on the running backs?

Most likely, all of the above.

“I think we’re getting better as an offense and in the run game, and there’s more opportunity,” Mendenhall said. “And I’ve been able to capitalize on that.”

On the season, Mendenhall now has 467 yards and five touchdowns on 148 carries. His most recent effort pushed him back ahead of Ellington for most rushing yards on the team, and he trails only Larry Fitzgerald for touchdowns scored.

If the last few games are any indication, Mendenhall may be able to salvage his first season in the desert. And if he keeps playing well, Arizona’s offense will be better for it. After all, this is a guy who not long ago was considered to be one of the better young running backs in the league after rushing for 3,309 yards and 29 touchdowns from 2009-2011 with the Steelers.

“He’s back to what I remember being back from Pittsburgh and the things I remember about him, not a lot of indecision,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said, adding Mendenhall is hitting the hole as soon as he sees it. “He’s done a great job. He’s done a great job in protection, too, so hopefully he keeps it going.

“But that’s the guy we expected to see.”

Arizona Cardinals

Krys Barnes #51 of the Green Bay Packers breaks up a pass intended for Devine Ozigbo #28 of the New...
Alex Weiner

Cardinals agree to 1-year deal with former Packers LB Krys Barnes

The Arizona Cardinals agreed to terms with 24-year-old inside linebacker Krys Barnes on a one-year contract, the team announced on Saturday.
1 day ago
Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Arizona Cardinals lines up during the NFL game against the...
Wills Rice

Report: Cardinals may want ‘Christian McCaffrey package’ for DeAndre Hopkins

The Cardinals are sticking to their guns in asking for a second round pick for wideout DeAndre Hopkins, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported.
1 day ago
Defensive back Christian Gonzalez #0 of the Oregon Ducks returns an interception in the third quart...
Tyler Drake

Cardinals’ mock draft scenarios: Arizona deals the No. 3 pick

Trade the No. 3 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft or keep it? That’s the question Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort will have to answer soon enough.
2 days ago
Arizona Cardinals' owner Michael Bidwill, left, new head coach Jonathan Gannon center, and general ...
Tyler Drake

NFL dates to remember and how they relate to the Cardinals

As Arizona's new regime gets to work on rebuilding the organization, a look at the key dates of the offseason to circle on the calendar.
2 days ago
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Zach Pascal (3) warms up during Super Bowl LVII between the Kansa...
Wills Rice

New Cardinals WR Zach Pascal hungry to take whatever role necessary with team

New Cardinals WR Zach Pascal reunites with Jonathan Gannon for the third time and is ready for whatever role he's needed to play in 2023.
2 days ago
Josh Woods #51 of the Detroit Lions celebrates during the second half against the New York Jets at ...
Tyler Drake

Arizona Cardinals agree to terms with LB Josh Woods on 1-year deal

The Arizona Cardinals and former Detroit Lions linebacker Josh Woods agreed to terms on a one-year deal, the team announced Thursday.
3 days ago
Arizona Cardinals’ OC: Rashard Mendenhall ‘back to what I remember’ from Pittsburgh