The Cardinals need better play at quarterback. Everyone gets that. But that hope they had for their running game before the season, taking some pressure off whomever would be playing QB, has dissolved.
There have been moments, for sure. LaRod Stephens-Howling, who got off to an awful start this season in limited time, has had a couple of 100-yard games. But the Hyphen also leads the team in rushing with 313 yards on 92 carries — both easily tops on the team — and considering what was expected for Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells before the year, that isn’t a good sign.
Even in the games Stephens-Howling shined, the Cardinals had trouble converting short-yardage downs for first downs. Beanie’s return was supposed to help that, but against the Jets, when Wells couldn’t grind out a couple of yards on back-to-back third- and fourth-downs early in the game, it was a deflating moment for an offense that didn’t need one. Williams wasn’t effective enough when he played prior to his season-ending shoulder injury (2.8 yards a carry) and Wells has struggled mightily this season. He is averaging just 2.4 yards a carry and while he acknowledged his knee was not healthy before he spent his eight-week stint on IR, he was back to being limited following his season re-debut against the Rams and still looked like he had some trouble against the Jets.
“I don’t know if I would say it was a setback,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “But you’re going to always have some reactions when you get back into playing (off a long-term injury). We said a couple weeks ago that we’re not under any illusion that he’s going to come back in and be perfect. I think that’s normal.”
The team’s top back has been William Powell, who has averaged 4.2 yards a carry over 32 totes (I could have said safety Rashad Johnson, who has pulled off a pair of beautiful fake punts for 24 and 40 yards.) Some of this falls on the offensive line issues, because the holes have not always been there. Some of it falls on the passing game/QB play, because defenses can afford to focus on stopping the run first since the passing game hasn’t been good enough. Some of it is on the backs, failing to maximize production when holes have been there. Some too can be attributed to the play calls too I am sure. As Whisenhunt has said many times, nothing has been good enough to leave out of the equation.
The Cardinals started the season by rushing for just 43 yards on 20 carries in a win against the Seahawks, the team they play this weekend, and that included a 15-yard end-around by wide receiver Andre Roberts. Whoever is installed at QB this weekend could use more production than that to give the Cards’ offense a chance.
Tags: Beanie Wells, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Ryan Williams, Seahawks, William Powell
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