TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Left tackle D.J. Humphries liked running back Chase Edmonds from the moment he joined the Arizona Cardinals. Sure, he was talented with the football in his hands, but there was something else that earned him fans among the offensive linemen.
He cared about blocking.
“The first thing I noticed was how serious he was about picking up blitzes, knowing what was going on with protection,” Humphries said. “That made him stand out as a rookie. And then watching him get the ball and run so hard.”
The 24-year-old Edmonds is in his third season with the Cardinals and has quickly become an indispensable part of the roster because of his ability to run, catch passes out of the backfield, block, and contribute on special teams. The backup running back's role is set to increase over the next few weeks after starter Kenyan Drake went down with an ankle injury in Arizona's 37-34 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks.
True to his do-it-all nature, Edmonds is ready for anything. His unselfish nature is part of why he's so popular in the locker room.
“Whatever happens, happens,” Edmonds said. “I'm going to be ready to answer the bell whatever it is, whatever my role is. We've got a creative head coach with Kliff (Kingsbury) so I'm sure he'll find ways to get more people involved until we get KD back.”
If Edmonds is the main man for the next several weeks, it won't be a completely new situation. He was briefly the starter in 2019 when David Johnson was battling injuries, and responded with a few good games, including a breakout performance against the Giants when he ran for 126 yards and three touchdowns.
Edmonds suffered a hamstring injury late in that game that hampered him the rest of the season, but that afternoon was proof he could be a lead back.
“When he gets that ball, he's not trying to be pretty, he's not trying to dance around, he's trying to get yards,” Humphries said. “That's one of my favorite things about Chase. He's going north.”
Edmonds skills were vital as the Cardinals pushed to a 5-2 record on Sunday with the come-from-behind win over the Seahawks. Drake left the game with an ankle injury late in the fourth quarter when the Cardinals were trailing 34-24.
Edmonds caught an 11-yard pass during the drive that cut the Seahawks' advantage to 34-31, then had a critical 12-yard run in the final seconds of regulation to push the Cardinals into range for the tying field goal. He finished with 58 yards rushing on just five carries and caught seven passes for 87 yards.
“It's just a testimony to my hard work this season,” Edmonds said. “I busted my (butt) this offseason, truly. From the start — even before COVID — I was working every single day.”
The combination of Drake, Edmonds and Kyler Murray has helped the Cardinals run for nearly 161 yards per game, which ranks second in the NFL.
All of them had carved out defined roles over the first seven weeks: Drake was the power runner usually used to get tough yards; Edmonds could run or be a problem catching passes out of the backfield; Murray's scrambling was a constant headache for opposing defenses.
Now Edmonds, a fourth-round pick out of Fordham in 2018, might have to pull double duty. The Cardinals will miss Drake, but in a potentially positive sign for the Cardinals, the running back hasn't been placed on injured reserve.
In the meantime, Arizona is confident Edmonds can handle anything. Kingsbury has said Edmonds would be a starting running back for many NFL teams and Murray loves having him in the huddle and on the field.
“He can do it all," Murray said. "He can run the ball, he can catch it out of the backfield, he can block. He’s a smart football player. He loves the game. I can’t say enough about Chase, to be honest. He’s a great football player.”
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL