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Cardinals' Rashard Mendenhall trying to make the most of preseason action

Dallas Cowboys inside linebacker Bruce Carter, right, tackles Arizona Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

While the Arizona Cardinals' offensive struggles were a cause for some concern following Saturday's 12-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, it wasn't all bad news, especially in the run game.

On 31 carries, Arizona's running backs combined to rush for 105 yards -- a small but noticeable difference from their first exhibition contest against the Green Bay Packers.

"We hit on the running game a little bit [against Dallas]," Bruce Arians told Arizona Sports 620's Bickley with Marotta Monday. "I think we improved in that area. I think we could have probably had a pretty good rushing outage in that ball game, but I like the fact that we put in some things one day before the game on how we were going to block the defense, and guys executed it. We had seven and eight-yard gains."

Although blocking played a role in the increased production, the return of both Rashard Mendenhall (patella tendinitis) and Andre Ellington (concussion) didn't hurt matters, either.

Mendenhall's debut with the Cardinals was of particular interest, given that the former 1,000-yard rusher signed a one-year contract back in March 2013 with the intention of becoming the team's starting running back this season.

Despite a small sample size, his 32-yard performance with the first-team offense was enough to earn rave reviews from his head coach.

"I thought [Andre and Rashard] both looked fast and very decisive," said Arians. "Rashard I thought could have had a real big game [Saturday], because it was his style of game where he could get one-on-one with defensive backs. Once our receivers start seeing the big picture of getting on their guys and knocking them to the ground and staying after them, we'll get some really long runs."

While Mendenhall was impressive in limited action -- ripped off runs off 6, 7 and 11 yards -- the six-year veteran said after practice Monday that he's just happy to be back in the fold with his new team.

"It's been great," Mendenhall said of his first training camp in Arizona. "You know I think everything is new around here, the coaches, the players and everything on down. So, everybody is trying to kind of grow together and get to know each other. I think we've been doing that pretty well."

The starters, and in particular Mendenhall, who played in only six games due to injuries and a suspension in 2012 with the Pittsburgh Steelers, will have another chance to grow against live action when they take on the San Diego Chargers Saturday night.

"It's the last opportunity for the ones to put things together before we head into the season where it all counts," said Mendall of the Cardinals' third preseason game. "It's just another chance to sharpen our sword before it all counts."

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