Certainly most of the off-season talk about the Arizona Cardinals has centered on the team’s need for a new quarterback, and there’s no question than an upgrade at quarterback will be required for the Cardinals to make it back into the playoffs this coming year.
However, make no mistake about it – the selection of running back Ryan Williams in the second round may be the biggest story line of the Cardinals draft, and clearly suggests that Coach Ken Whisenhunt is fully determined to mold the Cardinals into a team with a solid rushing attack, as his old Pittsburgh Steelers teams always had been.Give Whiz credit … he came to the Cardinals hoping to duplicate the grind-it-out rushing offense that he was known for as offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh, but when he was given the weapons of Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin, and Larry Fitzgerald, he adjusted quickly – and almost won a Super Bowl with a team that passed the ball more than any other team in the league.
Boldin’s now gone, and we still don’t know who will be the Cardinals quarterback this coming year. But one thing is certain – if Tim Hightower continues to fumble the football, and if Beanie Wells cannot stay healthy, Ryan Williams will be given every opportunity to become the Cardinals go-to guy, and carry the load in the backfield.
There has already been some talk about Hightower being part of a trade for Kevin Kolb, and it wouldn’t shock me if that happens. Williams is a guy that potentially could become a starter in his first season. After all, this is a player who gained more than 1,600 yards, averaged 5.6 yards per carry, and scored 21 touchdowns in his first year at college. However, what I think might be an even better scenario is if Hightower once again shows the ability to gain yards and get into the end zone, Wells demonstrates the power and speed that made him such an exciting rookie two years ago, and Williams makes the team and adds an extra dimension to an already solid backfield. What a trio that would be!
Of course, the Cardinals offensive line will need to open up some holes for its running backs to succeed. Last year, that rarely happened, but part of the problem was the lack of an effective quarterback, which made it that much harder for the Cardinals running backs to gain any significant yardage. However, with a quarterback who can at least be more accurate than Derek Anderson was, and an offensive line that certainly is capable and that has played together for a while now, a strong running game is not out of the question.
It’s anyone’s guess who is going to be getting the bulk of the carries this coming year. However, with the drafting of Williams, Coach Whisenhunt has sent a strong message about what his priorities are — and he certainly is stacking the deck in the Cardinals favor that somebody will emerge as the running back he so desperately wants.