A Cardinals offense that was hopefully born to run with “Thunder and Lightning” intensity, looks like it might have died a quick death in the desert.
Word is the team is holding out hope that Beanie Wells, the “Thunder” element in a potentially potent backfield duo also featuring lightning-quick second-year pro Ryan Williams, might be able to recover from a torn toe ligament in time for the 2012 stretch drive. According to some close team observers, however, that's a bit of a stretch.
As for Williams, he definitely will be a virtual nonfactor for the second season in a row after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in Week Five that made Arizona’s first loss of the season particularly painful.
Barring a move to sign a serviceable back off the street (ex-Cardinals RB Tim Hightower, perhaps?), the Cardinals must depend on the trio of LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell and Alfonso Smith to fill the major void created by the absence of Wells and Williams, the latter a victim of major bad luck so far in what team insiders still believe is a very promising career.
The ground game's short-term prognosis is far from promising, however.
“For starters, they’re not sure how much they can get out of LaRod because of the hip injury (that forced him to miss the last two games),” one team insider said. “And at 5-7, 185 pounds, they have never wanted to make him a featured back. They are always worried about overuse with him.”
Enter Powell and Smith, a pair of undrafted free agents who could see considerable action, we hear.
“Powell beat out Smith (who was released and later re-signed) in the preseason, and it’s kind of surprising that Smith did not play more last year,” the insider said. “Powell had a great preseason (leading the NFL in rushing), but you have to look at the guys he was running against. All three backs are on the smallish side.”
The consensus seems to be that none of these backs will do squat unless the team’s run blocking shows immediate improvement.
“It hasn’t been good at all — and it’s not just the offensive line,” the insider said.