There is so much that the Arizona Cardinals can like about running back James Conner. An ability to rumble through opposing defenses with relative ease is just one of the outstanding qualities that the 28-year-old battering ram possesses. The fact that Conner is also an excellent leader in the Cards locker room is something else that the organization is undoubtedly fond of.
While all of that is fantastic, there is one major drawback to having Conner on the roster. Not once in his seven NFL seasons has the 6 foot 1, 233 pounder made it through an entire year healthy. Don’t look now, but Conner has already found his way onto the Cardinals injury report, just two weeks into the 2023 campaign.
Fans were informed on Wednesday that Conner was limited at Arizona’s practice with a strained calf. On Thursday, the veteran ball-carrier was seen wearing a sleeve on the injured muscle. Conner seemed to be moving well according to reports, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll be out there this coming Sunday when the Cards host the New York Giants.
Second-year pro Keaontay Ingram is the top backup behind Conner at the moment, and that’s a scary proposition. During last Sunday’s loss to the Washington Commanders, the 23-year-old carried the rock five times for negative–four yards. No, that’s not a misprint, and it’s quite obvious that the Cardinals need an upgrade at the position in the worst way.
Surprisingly, there is still help available. Kareem Hunt, a Pro Bowler back in 2017, has a familiarity with the system that offensive coordinator Drew Petzing is now running in the desert. Hunt could act as the perfect complement to Conner, and could also keep the rushing attack producing at a high level if the injury-prone starter was to miss some time.
Leonard Fournette, a two-time,1,000-yard rusher, would also be a magnificent addition. The 28-year-old is just two seasons removed from a terrific campaign, in which he racked up 1,266 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s somewhat astounding that both Fournette and Hunt have yet to find a home in the National Football League.
One more ball-carrier worth pursuing is James Robinson, a 25-year-old who was released last month after spending just five weeks with the New York Giants. The 5 foot 9, 220 pounder likely became expendable when star back Saquon Barkley ended his holdout. During his first two years in the league, Robinson accounted for 1,837 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground, and another 566 yards and three scores on 80 receptions for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Arizona thought they had settled this issue back in August when they signed veteran Marlon Mack. Unfortunately, the 27-year-old tore his Achilles tendon just five days after joining the team. It’s time for Cards general manager Monti Ossenfort to take another stab at what remains a very attractive running back market.
(Statistics provided by Pro Football Reference)