Arizona Cardinals: Running Game More Important Than Ever in 2012

Cooper AllenAnalyst IIMay 19, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 04:  Beanie Wells #26 of the Arizona Cardinals straight arms Anthony Spencer #93 of the Dallas Cowboys at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Norm Hall/Getty Images

We are now nearing the end of May and are just a few months away from the start of the season. The way that the Arizona Cardinals closed out 2011 and the moves they have made this offseason have created a positive buzz throughout the fan base.

Both the players and the coaches have already gotten to work and most fans believe that a playoff appearance is not out of the question.

As fellow writer and Cardinals featured columnist Shaun Church pointed out in a recent article, there are several things that this team needs to focus on if they want to bring the division title back where it belongs.

While that article is correct, the one thing that was not talked too much about is the running game.

There is no doubting that the Arizona Cardinals have lacked a run game over the past decade. Even guys like Edgerrin James and Thomas Jones did not have nearly as much success in the desert as they did on other teams.

Over the past decade (2002-present) the Cardinals run game has ranked in the top 20 only once. That was back in 2002 and since then they have finished last in the league three times.

A legitimate shot at a playoff berth is something that Arizona has not had since Kurt Warner retired back in 2010. They now have a very young and talented team, but if they want to be playing past the first week of January, then the running game is something that will have to be there.

After a rough 2010 season that was plagued by injuries, Beanie Wells had a solid statistical 2011 season, rushing for just under 1,050 yards and recording 10 touchdowns in 14 games. Despite this, a knee injury led to some inconsistent play and forced him to miss two games.

Selected by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2011 draft, rookie Ryan Williams ruptured his patella tendon in preseason which forced him to miss the entire year. This was a pretty big blow to the running game as they had to rely on the likes of Alfonso Smith and Chester Taylor when Wells went down.

Take away the injuries and the combination of Wells and Williams looks pretty scary. They have a full offseason to get healthy and work with strength and conditioning coach John Lott in order to stay healthy.

With two relatively inexperienced quarterbacks fighting for the job in Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, having a solid running game is something that they will greatly appreciate and lead them to success.

With two receiving threats on the outside of the field and an improved offensive line, there are no excuses for a poor running game. If both running backs are able to stay healthy and live up to the hype, there is no reason that Arizona cannot make a playoff run in 2012.