TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals' rushing situation has gone from bad to worse.
Starting tailback Andre Ellington was ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs by coach Bruce Arians because of a hip pointer. He also is suffering from a hip flexor and the nagging foot injury that hampered him early in the season. A few hours later, Arizona released Michael Bush, who was presumed to be the answer to Arizona’s rushing issues because of his size and experience.
That left the Cardinals with a three-back rotation of Stepfan Taylor, Marion Grice and Robert Hughes. Combined, they have 40 carries this season for 119 yards and two touchdowns. The Cardinals promoted Kerwynn Williams to the active roster off their practice squad but he’s yet to have a carry this season.
Even though Arizona’s run game has struggled with Ellington lately, losing him eliminates the majority of the Cards’ rushing offense. He’s also accounted for 69.1 percent of the Cardinals’ rushing yards, the third most in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The Cardinals haven’t rushed for more than 64 yards in their four games and have been held under 50 in three of them. Ellington was responsible for 26.5 percent of Arizona’s yards from scrimmage this season, the seventh-highest rate for any running back in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
In his place, Taylor will start for the first time in his career. He’s run for 83 yards on 25 carries this season with one touchdown.
“We’ve been wanting to get the run game going,” Taylor said. “It’s a big part of this offense that we need to pick up. [We need to be] more balanced, help [quarterback] Drew [Stanton], get hits off of him.”
Behind Taylor will be Grice, the rookie out of Arizona State. He’s had just 11 attempts for 29 yards and a touchdown since singing on Sept. 23. Arians called Grice a “slasher” with power. He’s tall and lean with quickness, a combination that the Cardinals don’t have in the backfield.
It took Grice a while to pick up the scheme but Arians feels he finally has it.
“He’s been here a while, he knows the system, the opportunities he’s had he’s done well with,” Arians said. “He got the ball in the end zone down in Dallas. He made some nice plays last week.
“I look forward [to] seeing him play.”
And after Grice will be Hughes, a fullback who didn't get an offensive snap last week.
The Cardinals have rushed for 173 yards in four games after compiling four 100-yard games in their first eight. They’ve been searching for a reason that the run game isn’t working but answers have been more difficult to find with each passing week.
This may not be the game that the run game gets back on track, either.
“Right now, you look at our running game, the runs that are working pretty good are the ones that go downhill,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “But, we also have to be better, too, at the ones that go sideways as far as outside zone plays.”