Cardinals RB Rashard Mendenhall likely to return from knee injury for season opener
Mendenhall, who rushed six times for 47 yard against the San Diego Chargers, exited the Cardinals’ third preseason game after suffering a knee injury. It was the same knee that caused Mendenhall to miss time last season. After the game, Mendenhall reportedly said that his knee felt loose. The Cardinals' projected starting running back Mendenhall missed a portion of training camp with patellar tendinitis.
The 26-year-old Mendenhall’s knee issues were one of the main concerns when the Cardinals picked the running back off the market this May. However, the team seems to have dodged a bullet here, since losing Mendenhall would have been a huge hit to the Cardinals’ running game, which needs to improve this season.
The Cardinals also need the veteran leadership Mendenhall brings at the position.
Without Mendenhall, the Cardinals would have been left with combination of often-injured Ryan Williams, a backup in Alfonso Smith, and rookies Stefan Taylor as well as Andre Ellington in their offensive backfield. This obviously would have also put additional pressure on quarterback Carson Palmer and the Cardinals’ passing game.
So, a healthy Mendenhall is essential for the Cardinals to keep everything in order in the backfield. The former second-round pick Williams got his first preseason action in the fourth-quarter of last Saturday’s game, rushing for 10 yards on two carries and catching a pass for six receiving yards. Williams had previously been battling with a patella injury of his own during camp. Smith too hasn’t proved to be a starter through his three seasons with Cardinals. Obviously the Cardinals’ two rookies too just aren’t ready yet to take on such huge work load.
Meanwhile, the former first-rounder Mendenhall, who spent the past five seasons in Pittsburgh, has been a regular starter through the majority of his career. Last season, Mendenhall played six games with four starts for the Steelers, rushing 51 times for 182 yards.