Cardinals hoping Bush can fill Dwyer’s role

Bruce Arians says the Cardinals signed Michael Bush 'for the long haul,' though not necessarily for this week's game at Atlanta.

Ron Schwane/Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

TEMPE, Ariz. — The impact of Jonathan Dwyer’s arrest on the Cardinals is far less significant than its impact on his family, but it has created a void in the running game.

The Cardinals hope they found a solution to those issues after signing veteran running back Michael Bush, 30, on Tuesday, while releasing rookie running back Kerwynn Williams.

The 6-feet-1, 245-pound Bush adds size that the Cardinals have lacked since Dwyer (5-11, 229) was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list in September after two charges of aggravated assault.

Bush has not played this year, so it’s doubtful he will have an immediate impact without the benefit of a training camp or playing time. He’ll also need to learn the Cardinals offense.

"The problem is we don’t have many padded practices left and this will not be one of them (Wednesday), so it would be very hard to get him up to speed as fast we want to," said coach Bruce Arians, who isn’t sure if Bush will be active this week. "We didn’t sign him for this week, we signed him for the long haul, so we’ll have him ready when we need him."

The seven-year veteran was released by the Bears last March after two seasons (2012-13) in Chicago. He was productive for the Bears in 2012 in short-yardage situations, when he had 411 yards and five touchdowns backing up Matt Forte. But when coach Marc Trestman was hired, Bush’s role diminished and he carried just 63 times for 197 yards in 2013.

"You ask how long I was in Chicago, I say only one season because last year where was I?" Bush said. "It has nothing to do with Forte, because he played great. He is a hell of a running back. I just think that I didn’t get a fair shake. 

"I’m not trying to complain or anything, but if you look at it, maybe two games I didn’t touch the field. I didn’t do anything, and I think that hurt me in the long run as far as getting film out there as well."

Week 13 cheat sheet

Bush said he has no idea why Trestman didn’t use him. 

"When new coaches come in they’ve got different opinions and different guys they want in there," he said. "When I was released, I didn’t get to talk to Trestman or my running back coach."

Bush has been working out with a friend, but he was close to cutting back on that work and returning to school to get his undergraduate degree when the Cardinals called. Arians said Arizona pondered the move for about three weeks, adding that Bush was in great shape when the Cardinals worked him out on Tuesday.

"I’m fresh," Bush joked. "I’ve been fresh for two seasons."

Bush was the Raiders’ fourth-round pick (100th overall) in 2007 and has played in 89 games, gaining 3,250 yards and averaging 4 yards per carry. The Cardinals are averaging just 3.1 yards a carry, the worst average in the NFL. 

Starting running back Andre Ellington has been playing with a foot injury all season and is averaging only 3.3 yards a carry, which is the lowest average by far among the NFL’s top 20 rushers (Ellington is 13th with 648 yards). His backups, Stepfan Taylor and Marion Grice, have been unable to fill the short-yardage role with much success, although the offensive line also shares some blame.

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The Cardinals have been trying other avenues to find a replacement. They put in a claim on Ben Tate when the Browns released him last week, but with the best record in the NFL, they were last on the list for being awarded such a claim.

"He’s got very light feet for a big man, so he can jump-cut a little bit and get north," Arians said of Bush. "It’s something that we really haven’t had since Jonathan was lost. Stepfan did a nice job last week, but we’ll see what kind of role we can develop for him."

Bush played with Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer for two years in Oakland and with QB Carson Palmer for one. 

In related moves, the Cards released offensive tackle Kelvin Palmer from the practice squad and then re-signed Williams to the practice squad. They also added linebacker Kion Wilson to the practice squad after the Titans signed linebacker Kaelin Burnett off Arizona’s practice squad to Tennessee’s 53-man roster.

GM Steve Keim has made 200 roster moves this year (after 193 moves in 2013). 

Guard Jonathan Cooper finally saw some time on offense last week, logging five offensive snaps against the Seahawks after logging three in the first 10 games of the season.

With so much pent-up frustration and anxiety, Cooper admitted he felt pressure to perform perfectly on those five snaps.

"Absolutely," he said. "There is an elevated sense of urgency like I have to do well because there’s such a limited amount, but when I do get more snaps, there will still be that amount of pressure that I’m putting on myself."

The 2013 first-round pick missed all of his rookie season with a broken fibula and was limited early this season by turf toe. He feels like he has finally gotten over the hump.

"The hump was just getting back to the player that I was," he said. "Physically, I feel good. Now it’s just a matter of putting it all together: the physical, the mental, the finishing, the technique — becoming the complete player again that I was."

Atlanta placed running back Antone Smith on IR with a broken leg suffered last week, making him the eighth Falcons player to be placed on season-ending injured reserve since June.

The team lost linebacker Sean Weatherspoon to an Achilles tear. Offensive linemen Sam Baker (knee) and Mike Johnson (foot) were lost during the preseason, then offensive linemen Joe Hawley (ACL), Peter Konz (ACL) and Lamar Holmes (foot) went down during the season. Rookie linebacker Marquis Spruill (ACL) also is among the group. Safety William Moore is eligible to return this week.

"For us, it’s been in specific areas that have stretched our depth," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "But I know that the Cardinals have had the same thing, and you guys have done a very good job of being very resilient and overcoming them.

"We have not been as good as we need to be in terms of getting our backup players to play at the level we need to have them play."

Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will be a hot commodity in the offseason when a number of coaching vacancies are created, as they always are. One of those vacancies could be in Atlanta, per a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Bowles was the defensive coordinator/secondary coach at Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1997.

LB Kenny Demens (hamstring) and WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) did not practice on Wednesday. Defensive tackle Ed Stinson (toe), LB Lorenzo Alexander (knee), LB Marcus Benard (shoulder), RB Andre Ellington (hip/foot) and WR John Brown (wisdom teeth) were limited. QB Drew Stanton (ankle) practiced fully. 

For the Falcons, CB Robert Alford (wrist), WR Harry Douglas (foot), DT Paul Soliai (non-injury) and WR Roddy White (ankle) did not practcie. T Jonathan Scott (hamstring) was limited.  

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