Strong start could mean more carries for Adrian Peterson

Cardinals add Peterson to improve run game (0:40)

The Arizona Cardinals traded for Adrian Peterson with hopes of rejuvenating their offense, which is averaging an NFL-worst 2.6 yards per rush. (0:40)

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Adrian Peterson era in Arizona will start early for the Cardinals on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

At what rate it continues throughout the game largely depends on him.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility for Peterson to get at least 15 carries, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. But Peterson and Arizona’s offensive line will determine if that happens.

“I think for us, if the runs go early, B.A.’s more apt to call them,” Goodwin said, referring to coach Bruce Arians. “That way you know he’s going to get more touches. If they don’t go, then it becomes more of a passing game.

“I feel like with the addition of him and what he brings to the table, I think B.A. would hopefully lean on him a little bit more, seeing that this is the reason we brought him here.”

Arizona is all but relying on Peterson to resurrect a dormant running game. The Cardinals rank last in the NFL in total rushing yards (259), yards per rush (2.59), long run (14 yards), run yards after first contact (115), yards after first contact per rush (1.15) and first downs per rush (14 percent). They’re also second to last in run yards before first contact (144), yards before contact per run (1.44), rushing first downs (14) and designed rushes under center (53.8 percent).

Peterson is averaging more yards per rush than Arizona (3.0), more yards after first contact per rush (2.11) and has a higher first downs per rush percentage (18.5). He also has five first downs in 27 carries this season and has rushed for 81 yards. His longest run this season is 11 yards.

He’ll be running behind an improved Cardinals offensive line. Left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Alex Boone are expected to start, and Earl Watford is replacing Evan Boehm at right guard.

The line may get Peterson “two or three,” yards but Peterson can get another “five or six” on his own, Goodwin said.

“I think his legs are live,” Goodwin said. “I think he’s hungry, which is the biggest thing, and I think he’s excited about the opportunity, knowing that he’s going to get the ball a lot more than he got it in New Orleans.

“I think we’ll be alright.”

It helps, Goodwin said, that Peterson’s running style fits into what Arizona does. He’s run “pretty much the same stuff” as far as schemes, having run double, power and zone plays.

From watching Peterson during practice this week, Goodwin and Arians think the seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time first-team All-Pro still has it.

Thus far, Peterson has fit into Arizona’s offense well during practice.

“Couldn’t ask for any better,” Arians said.

If Peterson can get into a groove early Sunday, it’ll have a corresponding impact on quarterback Carson Palmer, who leads the NFL in attempts (227) and dropbacks (247), is second in completions (136) and third in passing yards (1,573).

Palmer has said he doesn’t mind throwing 45.4 times per game, and that his arm feels “great,” but he’d like to see the run game be impactful enough to sell the defense on play-action.

“I love throwing the ball, but I also like getting a defense to suck up against some play-actions,” Palmer said. “Getting in second-and-6 and third-and-manageable, it’s a double-edged sword. A lot of quarterbacks want to go out and throw the ball every play, but when defenses start to pick up on that it makes it more difficult.

“I’m at the stage right now, we’re at the part in the season, where if we can (go) to more 60-40 (passing to running) it probably would be better for all of us.”

And that’ll all depend on how well Peterson gets out of the blocks, beginning Sunday.

“It feels good to be here and to have an opportunity to show what I can do,” Peterson said.