Yes football season is over and this proposal may come off as off season hot air, but it just needs to be said. The 2011 season was CHRIS BEANIE WELLS’ coming out party or a season in which people finally started saying that this guy wasn’t headed for Bustville.
Because after all, he was drafted in the first round (31st pick overall) back in 2009 to become a sort of savior to their running game. But from 2009-2010 (32 total games) he only gained 1,190 yards (595 yards average yards rushing per year). A back of Wells’ size, power, speed, and skillset was supposed to gain that many yards per year, not over two years. But in 2011 he nearly surpassed that two-year total in 14 games (1,047 yards). That is great and all, but Arizona in their running game needs more than just Wells; because the NFL these days is a two-back system and the season is too long to put all the running game onus on one guy, no matter how big or strong he is.
Wells averaged 74.7 yards rushing per game in 2011 (not anything special) but what about those weeks when defenses held him under 100 yards (12 times) rushing or those weeks when he was stymied, where were the Cardinals other running backs?
Rookie RYAN WILLIAMS had a viable excuse as his season was ended in a preseason football game versus the Green Bay Packers 22 days before the regular season even started (ruptured patella tendon to his right knee). Williams may be the second most talented all around running back on the roster, but the Cardinals may have to wait until September to see how good he really can be in live regular season action.
Then there was free agent signee CHESTER TAYLOR who was nothing more than a glorified blocking back. And the bad thing is that Taylor is a much better football player than that even though he is nearing the twilight of his career. Taylor isn’t the player he was from 2004-2007 but he can still play and if he is re-signed for the 2012 season, the Cards better use him better than they did last year.
LAROD STEPHENS-HOWLING is only 5-foot-7 and 185 pounds, and he is more valuable to the Cardinals in the kick return game. But he is a threat with all that speed and his considerable change of direction skills. In the Cards’ season finale versus Seattle, he did lead all rushers (Seattle’s too) with 93 yards. He didn’t score versus the Seahawks but that’s not the point, he showed that he could be an occasional threat in the running game. He ended up being the Cardinals’ second leading rusher for the season but he was 880 yards behind Wells.
Rookie WILLIAM POWELL out of Kansas State offers hope as he has good speed and some excitement to his game, but he was an undrafted rookie with no statistics to his name in 2011. It doesn’t look good for him as far as making the Cardinals in 2012 let alone taking some pressure off of Wells. But then again, he made it this far after being in the background in college (gained just 250 yards rushing in two years) behind All-American and current Miami Dolphins running back DANIEL THOMAS and after the draft waiting for a phone ring that came as fast as a snail.
Second year man ALFONSO SMITH is tall for a running back (6-foot-1) but fortunately for him he doesn’t run too high or with his chest too exposed for a linebacker or heat-seeking missile of a safety to blow him up. He can cut back, has good speed, and he attacks holes whether they are big or small. Smith likes to play above his playing weight and that could serve him well in 2012, but he is a work in progress. To date he has gained only 102 yards and scored once since 2010 (the year the Cards signed him as undrafted free agent).
The Cardinals haven’t had a consistent 1,000 yard rusher since EDGERRIN JAMES from 2006-2007, and the only way Wells can equal that feat or better it (in 2013) is if he stays healthy and the Cards have a healthy and consistent complementary or No.2 back such as the aforementioned Williams.