By: Ed Cole
GLENDALE, Ariz. – There’s no such thing as lack of depth at the running back position for the Arizona Cardinals. They’ve got five players – Andre Ellington, Marion Grice, Robert Hughes, Stepfan Taylor, Kerwynn Williams – that they feel can get the job done and perform at a much higher level than they did in 2014, when they were ranked 31st in the league in rushing.
Rookies David Johnson and Paul Lasike are going to have to work beyond overtime to even get a sniff of the 53-man roster this season.
“Kerwynn (Williams) ran for 100 yards against the best run defense in Kansas City (Chiefs), and he went over to the (St. Louis) Rams and ran on them,” head coach Bruce Arians said. “We got plenty of running backs.”
It’s hard to think that Johnson – at 6-1, 224 pounds – couldn’t find a role within Arizona’s offense, possibly teaming up with Ellington in the backfield, or even being put out wide because of his pass catching skills.
With Arians, how you get playing time is by showing him that you can do more than one thing for the team. When Arians talks about his linebackers, one of the first things he mentions is how he wants them to be strong on special teams, because that’s where he feels they can truly make their mark, even more than what they can do on defense.
The same thing rings true with Johnson, who was very good on special teams while at Northern Iowa. His 36.5 yards per return average last season set a school single-season record. Arians knows what he has in Johnson, and what he could potentially bring to the offense and the special teams group, but with so many bodies ahead of him, he’s going to have to scratch and claw for everything he gets, which is a good problem for Arians to have with such a logjam at running back.
“We’ll have to see in pads, because Kerwynn Williams played pretty damn good at the end of the season last year, and Stepfan (Taylor) played pretty good at the end,” Arians said. “There’s no hand-me-downs just because he’s (Johnson) 6-1, 225; that’s the good part. He runs fast and he catches the ball (so) he should be able to find a niche somewhere.”