Sat, 23 Jan 2021

Kenyan Drake Puts Onus On Running Backs To Help Kyler Murray

Arizona Cardinals
04 Dec 2020, 18:03 GMT+10

Notes: Fitzgerald absence leaves void; defensive line getting healthier Kyle Odegard

Kyler Murray is adamant that he doesn't need to run for the Cardinals' offense to be successful.

If that's true, it puts more weight on the shoulders of running backs Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds to keep things flowing.

The duo has been dynamic for much of the season, but in the past two games it's combined to average only 3.6 yards per carry on 41 attempts. As a tough matchup against a stellar Rams defense approaches, Drake believes he and Edmonds are up for the task.

"Teams don't want (Murray) to beat them with his ability, so it's going to come back to us doing our job to handle that load," Drake said. "I feel like we're fully capable of doing that."

Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said it's common in the NFL for a team to zero in on one aspect of an offense and try to shut it down. Recently, that focus has been on Murray's mobility.

"If you want to stop a certain thing, you can," Joseph said. "Now, that comes with a sacrifice somewhere else. If you want to take out one player, one part of your offensive scheme, they can. You have to obviously pivot."

The Cardinals will likely need to beat teams through the air down the stretch, as right tackle Kelvin Beachum said the Cardinals are regularly seeing five-, six- and even seven-man fronts.

The Cardinals are on pace to set a franchise record in yards per carry (5.04) for a second straight year, but the average has dropped considerably in the past few games as teams stack the box.

"I think teams are realizing you can't line up in a four-man front and beat us," Beachum said.

Beachum said Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his disciples Brian Flores (Miami) and Matt Patricia (Lions) have used a similar game plan to combat the Cardinals, with Seattle also adopting the strategy.

"Teams are using the blueprint from that Belichick tree to be able to slow us down," Beachum said.

PETERSON: FITZGERALD 'CAN'T WAIT TO GET BACK'

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is the lone Cardinals player on the COVID-19 reserve list after safety Deionte Thompson was activated on Thursday.

Cornerback Patrick Peterson said it's been a foreign feeling to have the Cardinals' longest-tenured player absent for this stint.

"It's definitely different not having the G.O.A.T. around," Peterson said. "His energy, his presence, his knowledge of everyday life, the way he carries himself, is definitely missed. Miss hearing his voice, miss hearing him joking around, just being Larry. Larry's doing fine. I had an opportunity to talk to him a couple days ago and he can't wait to get back. But we also know he has to continue following the protocols for the NFL. Hopefully we can get him back here as soon as possible, because we miss him in the locker room and on the field."

CARDINALS GETTING HEALTHIER ON DEFENSIVE LINE

Corey Peters is done for the season, while Jordan Phillips and Josh Mauro are on injured reserve, so the defensive line isn't in great shape, but it's certainly doing better than a couple weeks ago.

Zach Allen returned to the lineup against New England, while Rashard Lawrence (calf) and Leki Fotu (ankle) have both resumed practicing. Joseph said there is a learning curve for rookie defensive linemen, but he's encouraged about the trajectory of his fourth-round draft picks.

"Leki was playing at a high level before he got hurt," Joseph said. "So was Lawrence. They're both back, and hopefully they can help us with 10-to-12 snaps a game to shore up our front a little bit."

Safety Jalen Thompson (ankle) did not practice on Thursday, while Lawrence, Allen (ankle), guard Justin Pugh (ankle), cornerback Johnathan Joseph (ankle/knee) and safety Charles Washington (groin) were limited.

For the Rams, linebacker Terrell Lewis (knee) and defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day (hip) did not practice, while offensive lineman Brian Allen (knee) was limited.

BAKER NOMINATED FOR SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD

Safety Budda Baker is the Cardinals' nominee for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award. The 32 candidates will be trimmed to eight finalists in a vote by current NFL players.

The winner will be announced at NFL Honors before the Super Bowl. Fitzgerald won the inaugural award in 2014.

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