Seeing things on the run

Posted by Darren Urban on December 5, 2012 – 10:56 am

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.


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29 Responses to “Seeing things on the run”

  1. By Rich on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    our running backs can’t pass block either.

  2. By Jahstone on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    And some of it can be summed up by this fact. Larry Fitzgerald has 5 receptions in the past 3 games event though Lindley has thrown him the ball 26 times. Best chance to win??? He has 56 recptions on 123 balls thrown to him this year. That’s 45.5% if your doing the math at home.

  3. By walnutbackpack on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    Yes, the running game has been nonexistent as well. And as usual, the coaching staff seems to have no clear understanding of the reasons for that. It’s also worth pointing out that Doug Martin was available on the draft board when the Cards chose Floyd.

  4. By Campbells on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    Unless Seattle doesn’t show-up, our QB won’t get any relief from the running game. All things considered, our backs are too small to be very effective. Beanie has size, but he’s not reliable.
    Hope a smash-mouth running back is available in the draft.
    Historically, our line hasn’t been good enough for us to keep employing undersized/finesse backs. Aggrivates me to see a back like Dwyer slip to the Steelers. He’s a guy that can get you a first down.

  5. By Michael D on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    Surprised that Whiz did not through the running backs under the bus like he did with the receivers last week. I came across this article while I was doing a search to try to figure something, anything out as to why Whisenhunt has been making the decisions and statements that he has. It is a month old and talks about the Green Bay Game.

  6. By MIKE G on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    Hey Darren–Hope u r good–looking forward to the game on Sunday! I think the RB position is a concern for the team moving forward. Just so happens the QB spot is the top priority. I think the RB’S of Wells, Williams, Hyphen
    and Powell are fine from a talent standpoint. My main concern is their durability. The question I have can this group stay healthy in the future????? I don’t know.
    Hey Darren–Do you see this as a problem??? & does this warrant a draft choice next year??

  7. By Darren Urban on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    Mike G —

    RE: Health

    I have no idea. If I could do that, I’d be in a different job making a lot more money.

  8. By brad oneill on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    on a positive note the guy selling soda has found it much easier to communicate with fans now that there isn’t any noise in the stadium.

  9. By D on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    My Christmas gift to Mr. Horton IF and When he may get promoted here, I’ll help you so your prepared in Feb. The QB field will look bleak as far as free agency and for first round Andrew Luck types…, since we won’t get into a bidding war when A. Smith gets released (whom is no better than a healthy Kolb), I would work on restructuring K. Kolb’s deal to be the starter next year. (Kevin, no other team will pay you more for your body of work than AZ)
    Assuming L. Brown and Massie are the starting tackles next year (Potter can be backup swing tackle)
    Draft and current players for next year:

    Trade down in first round. Pick up an additional 2 and 3rd round picks.
    Selection would be: B. Jones G ALA
    2nd Round: L. Jones QB OK
    2nd Round: S. Taylor RB Stanford
    3rd Round: J. Bostic ILB FL
    3rd Round: D. Jones DE UCLA
    4th Round: G. Hodges OLB Penn State
    5th Round: D. Williams SS Nevada
    6th Round: D. Hopkins K FSU

    (resign Groves, Lennon, Hyphen, Johnson, Sanders, Let go Bradley, Holliday, Skelton, Powell, Synder, maybe Feely and Adub) Look for a TE in FA.
    Happy Holidays.

  10. By wnycardfan on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    There isn’t much to hang your hat on in the running game, and seems like hasn’t been for years. Granted 1000 yrds last year for Wells, but he just doesn’t seem like the back we need (smash, and help the team win, vs just getting us by). I mean, when’s the last time AZ has been known for a running game????
    Play Powell, what have you got to lose for crying out loud!!!!!!!!!!!
    At this point, based on what OFF looks like, doesn’t much matter who QB is.

  11. By jocards on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    Well the good news is that we haven’t named a starting QB yet for the Seattle game, the bad news is we have to name one prior to game time. Long season!

  12. By ALONEEAGLE on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    Unfortunately, I have to believe the Cards are going to go 4-12 for the season. When the season started and this team went 4-0, I believed they would win the division. I don’t see them winning another game this season, except maybe the Bears with Urlacher out of the line-up, but even that I doubt. I don’t forsee trhis team marching into Seattle with the O-line as poor as it is, No set QB, and quite frankly, a coach that makes poor decisions. Whiz had a chance to possibly win against the Jets, simply by realizing that Lindly obviously didn’t have it at all, and replacing him with Skelton. What was the worst that could happen? we lose. Oh wait a minute, we did that. Rex pulls Sanchez cause he didn’t have it and puts in his back-up and they win. Coach Whiz says after the game that he considered pulling Lindley for Skelton, but felt Lindly gave this team the best chance to win!! REALLY, are you kidding me. If I am Fitz at the end of the season, I am walking into the front office and giving this organization an ultimatum. Get me a solid QB, or trade me to a contender. I know however Fitz wouldn’t do that, which is why he is not only the best, but the classiest reciever in the league. Bottom line is, Whuiz needs to go, and go now!! Give Horton a chance, see what he can do. He can’t do any worse. I don’t see them beating the Bears or the Lions at home, and they definately are not going into San Fran and beating the Niners. I guess to look on the bright side, we are gonna get a good draft pick. probably top 5, if not better. Number one priority in the off season, if not before, New Coach!!!! Then we nedd to address the O-line, the worry about a good QB!! I think if Kolb had stayed healthy and we had a decent line that this team would have won quite a few more games, despite the poor coaching decisions by Whiz!! WHIZ and Graves have got to go!! Here is to next season!!

  13. By jeffgollin on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    What sometimes gets lost in the post-game critiquing is that a breakdown in one area of play has a domino-like impact on other parts of the game. The result is that you get tangled up in a chicken or egg conundrum where you can never quite figure out what caused which.

    That said, my instincts point to the offensive line as the root-source of most of the team’s problems. Fix that, and suddenly our QB’ing and run-game will magically get better.

  14. By clssylssy on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    I read that the Honey Badger will be going to the NFL next season and since he is living with Patrick Peterson’s family is there any chance that he will be coming to Arizona? There was talk that Chris Ivory was looking to be traded because he wasn’t getting enough playing time in New Orleans and if he was available he would be quite the pick up if we could get him. Larod has been great to watch and of all of our players to help our running game he and Powell have looked the best since Williams got hurt. The offense definitely needs a running game if the QBs we have are to be serviceable. Kolb and Skelton have done OK when they don’t have to pass long distances although Skelton has the arm and the fact that that hasn’t been developed is on the OC or the QB coach. Even Drew Brees needs some relief from his RBs. Having our TEs out of commission and not having a consistent run game have really hurt the offense more than has been acknowledged.

  15. By Boondock on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply


    Yes, our running game has been pathetic too. There haven’t exactly been a whole lot of gaping holes to hit either due to our fabulous O-Line. Hindsight is 20/20, but you and everyone else would have thought the Cards were idiots if we would have taken Martin at 13. Floyd at least has flashed some talent, he made a great catch in the last game. Poor QB play has definitely stunted his growth/season; look at the effect our QB play has had on Fitz. Can’t blame the front office for that one…now, on the other hand I still blame them for not drafting Adrian Peterson when we had a chance. Still upset about that one. I am officially rooting for us to tank the rest of the season and give ourselves a shot at a high draft pick to use on the best player available. Massie has improved and I haven’t heard anything about Potter (normally a good sign) so hopefully those two will continue to develop and our line won’t be as bad. We still need to upgrade though, maybe Jake Long?

  16. By cardsalltheway on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    Ken W. should make an ‘L’ with his left hand then place it on his forehead and walk around each day/week until we win, if ever again while he’s our loser. You know, kind of like how he has told our RB’s to do when they fumble.

  17. By Dynosoar on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    Eddie Lacy of (I hate to say it, but) the Crimson Tide. He’s a Junior, so don’t know if he’s available in the draft in 2013 or 2014.

    Marlin Lane, Jr. of Tennessee is a Sophomore, so he’s not available till 2014 or 2015. Two years in a row we could draft a solid RB.

    That is, unless things turn around next season as I believe they will (although, my faith in my Cardinals was misplaced this year.)

    I’d love to see Beanie and Williams produce, but they haven’t. Like Darren stated, it could be the backs, the line, the poor pass playing, the play calling or some combination thereof.

    I like what I see from both Lacy and Lane (Lacy had 181 yrds, 2 TD’s and 7.5 yrds/carry in the SEC Championship game last weekend. Not an easy feat.

  18. By georgiebird on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    Beanie has the speed and power to be one of the best backs in the league- he also is a very young guy-some current draft choices are about Beanie’s age.
    Here’s the problem assuming Beanie can stay healthy:
    1) Beanie doesn’t know how to run- he runs too high giving opponents too much of a shot at him.
    2) Beanie has never been coached properly-probably because the Cards have not had an OC worth mentioning since Beanie’s been here
    3) The plays Beanie is being asked to run don’t fit his style
    Can Beanie do better somewhere else?- without a doubt. If that Dog, OJ Anderson, could resurrect his career with the Giants, then Beanie will be fine if he moves on.

  19. By cfrederi on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    With Beanie I feel like were always waiting for that breakout year. We just keep waiting and waiting and waiting. Will it ever come? Is Williams just another Beanie in the waiting? A guy were always expecting to be better, but just can’t stay healthy.

  20. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    Hi Darren,

    I think you meant, “couldn’t” in the second sentence of the third paragraph.

    “…when Wells could grind..”

  21. By Darren Urban on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    Ottis —

    RE: Typo

    Thanks for the heads-up.

  22. By AndyStandsUp on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    In nearly six seasons Whisenhunt has been the coach of fourteen 100 yard games and the team has been no better than 24th in league under his tenure.
    Now with Warner and Well’s injuries and Ken’s proclivity for splitting carries, some excuses can be made, but you’re really reaching when the run game has been that bad for that long.

  23. By Cheese on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply


    With two running backs coming off of really tough knee injuries and without making major upgrade to the offensive line in the off-season, what exactly was the hope for an improved running game based on? Again… you’re probably gonna call this a loaded question, but I am just completely flummoxed that this team thought the running game was going to get a lot better this season depending on two injury prone running backs, both of which were coming off major surgeries. Did they simply believe that by adding a relatively suspect G in Snyder, that it would make that much of a difference to off-set problems at the RB position?


  24. By iammattyoung on Dec 5, 2012 | Reply

    Here’s calling for Whisenhunt’s head at the end of the season. His coaching career hangs on two points: 1) “what he did with” Ben Roethlisberger and 2) leading the Cardinals to the brink of a Championship. I think that it’s clear at this point that Roethlisberger is, and always was, a superb quarterback, and that Ken Whisenhunt did not “make” him. I think that it’s also clear that Whisenhunt’s success with the Cardinals was a direct result of Kurt Warner’s ability to command an offense. Whisenhunt has made one bad choice after another and has failed to sustain any semblance of an offense without an MVP-caliber QB behind center. With rumblings that Horton will be offered a head coaching job elsewhere, the best thing the Cards could do is promote him to head coach to keep the one good thing this team has going for it.

    Unfortunately, there are no great QBs available. Fortunately, it actually looked like Kolb could win behind this defense. With both Potter and Massie showing improvement, the Cards could go after a top-flight guard in the draft (Colledge and Snyder simply can’t open running lanes), or a true pass rushing OLB.

  25. By Campbells on Dec 6, 2012 | Reply

    We really need to focus on the o-line, and running game (linemen, tight-end, and smash mouth running back).
    Emmitt Smith is highly regarded, but does anyone remember seeing some of the holes he had to run through? A small car could’ve made it through untouched. The goal should be to assemble a dominant line, if possible.
    We need a (big) play making tight-end.
    The defense isn’t perfect, but it’s been very effective. Adding a shutdown corner would help, if available.
    Hope we don’t focus too hard on acquiring a fantastic QB (like we did when we acquired Kolb). There aren’t any available this year. Hate to see draft picks given away, and enormous salary paid to an underachiever.
    Hate to beat a dead horse, but we need a coaching staff that can make all the pieces work well together.

  26. By Rick Von on Dec 6, 2012 | Reply

    Do think it is very likely the Cards try to trade or just release Beanie. He’s just not on the field enough, and when he is the consistent production just isn’t there. I’m not sure what he is slotted to make next season but it’s probably more than he deserves.

    I think it’s safe to say the Cards will look to upgrade the RB position in the draft as well as OL this coming draft. It doesn’t seem to be a very talented draft for QB’s, at least that is the consensus with most so called “experts”, which I am not.

    I really enjoy your articles Darren, thanks for keeping them coming.

  27. By Darren Urban on Dec 6, 2012 | Reply

    Rick Von —

    RE: Beanie

    I’m not sure what happens there. He is under contract for another season, but you make fair points. I think the Cards will have to look many places on offense and make some decisions/upgrades.

  28. By Cert 33 on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    Since there are no NFL “starter” caliber QB’s in the upcoming draft, I think that Stepfan Taylor would be a good fit on the Cards. Of course, that pick would be a total waste if Grimm is not replaced and the O-Line revamped. The only “franchise” QB coming up out of the college ranks in the future will be “Johnny Football” (John Manziel) in a couple of years. I doubt if the Bidwells would be willing to accomodate the high price tag that will come with sighning him.

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