Cardinals' ground game hard to figure

Posted Sept. 13, 2012 @ 12:48 p.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

Don’t look now, but it’s starting to look like the Cardinals’ situation at running back could be perhaps even more fluid than the team’s unsettled situation at quarterback.

Entering the regular-season opener, most close team observers felt that Beanie Wells, who dispelled the notion that he was soft last season by missing only one game while becoming the first Cardinals back ever to rush for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in a season, would get the clear majority of playing time over promising second-year RB Ryan Williams.

It was widely assumed this season that Williams, whose rookie season was wiped out by a torn patella tendon suffered last preseason, would get playing time comparable to what former Cardinals RB Tim Hightower normally received while teaming with Wells. But more than a few eyebrows were raised when Williams started in Week One over Wells, who it turned out had a tender hamstring, according to head coach Ken Whisenhunt.

It also turned out that both Williams and Wells actually took a backseat to normal third-down back LaRod Stephens-Howling. In addition to scoring Arizona’s first TD of the season on a one-yard run, Stephens-Howling was involved in 33 percent of the offensive snaps in Week One, compared to 31 percent for Williams and a mere 20 percent for Wells, who has onlookers in the desert wondering again about his brittle body parts.

“Beanie says he’s fine, but it’s hard to tell,” said one daily team observer. “I think we could be looking at a guessing game at running back all season, with Whisenhunt going with whoever he feels has the hot hand.”