The Cardinals are great against the run but not elite runners

Rob Carr

The Cardinals have mostly played running backs that are JAGs.

In the week leading up to Sunday's matchup between the Cardinals and Eagles, a lot has been said about Arizona's run defense, which ranks second in the league. The Cardinals allow only 81.3 rushing yards per game. That is pretty impressive, but when you look at the Cardinals schedule and overall state of the running back position this season, it is not all that surprising.

Arizona has only played two running backs that are in the top ten in rushing yards . Those two players are San Francisco's Frank Gore and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch. The two backs had no problem having a good game on the ground against Arizona. Gore rushed for 101 yards in Week 6 in a 49ers win, while Lynch tallied 91 yards and a touchdown in a Week 7 win for the Seahawks. Those are pretty good games for some pretty great running backs, granted the Cardinals likely suffered from down-the-stretch running from games that were lost by double digits.

The Cardinals did play Carolina's DeAngelo Williams and Tampa Bay's Doug Martin earlier in the season and held them below 50 rushing yards. Those two are a curious case, as Williams started off hot then cooled down heavily toward the middle of the season and Martin was mediocre from the jump after an incredible rookie season. The rest of the cast of characters that the Cardinals have played are as follows: Pierre Thomas, Joique Bell (Reggie Bush was injured early in the game), Matt Ryan (yes, he was the Falcons top rusher in the game at 13 yards), Ben Tate, Maurice Jones-Drew (season-high is 84 yards) and Trent Richardson (2.9 YPC).

The point is that while the Cardinals have a tremendous and scary defense, they are beatable on the run. While Gore and Lynch are Top 10 and possibly Top 5 running backs, LeSean McCoy is a whole different animal. What makes McCoy more dangerous than Lynch and Gore is that he makes guys miss with speed and strength. Gore and Lynch have power, but McCoy does it all. It will be interesting to see how he handles a strong run defense, as teams have done everything they can to stop him all season and he still leads the league in rushing.

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