Cardinals' 2009 Tasks: Improve the Run Game

The first installment in a series of vital tasks for the Arizona Cardinals, Brad Wilbricht dissects the team's main nemesis from a year ago. Arizona had the worst rushing attack in the NFL and will be seeking enhanced results on the ground. The Cardinals are expected to be contenders for the second straight year but need to improve several areas in order to repeat their historic Super Bowl run.

Although the Arizona Cardinals featured one of the most potent aerial attacks a year ago, the team's running game was equally as bad. The Cardinals averaged a mere 74 yards per game on the ground, ranking 32nd in the league. Neither Edgerrin James nor Tim Hightower was able to establish consistency in the running game, forcing Arizona to rely on the pass for the majority of the year.

Hightower did manage to breathe life into the Cardinals' group of running backs, racking up 10 touchdowns during his rookie season. However, he managed only one regular season game over 37 yards and was held to just 2.8 yards per carry. James faired slightly better but was demoted to backup duties midseason. In total, James compiled 514 rushing yards while averaging 3.9 yards per attempt.

Arizona should benefit from stability along the offensive line as the entire starting lineup remains intact from last year. In addition, Russ Grimm was promoted to co-offensive coordinator and should bring a hard-nosed approach to the offense. Grimm and head coach Ken Whisenhunt have always valued a power running game and have made it no secret they intend to bring that mentality to the Cardinals.

Chris Wells

Along with more experience in the trenches, the Cardinals invested a first-round draft pick on RB Chris Wells. Wells, once considered a top 10 selection, ended up slipping to Arizona at pick No. 31. During his college career at Ohio State, Wells suffered through several nagging injuries and must stay on the field at the professional level. If he's able to shake the injury bug, Wells can develop into a game-changing back.

The Cardinals don't need one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL but they must do a better job of obtaining balance on offense. Along with wideouts Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, QB Kurt Warner should take the majority of focus off the running game. However, if Arizona is unable to capitalize on their weapons through the air, the team's ground game will struggle mightily for the second consecutive season.

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