With just over 11 minutes to play in Thursday night's loss to the St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals running back Ryan Williams had his best run of the night, a 12-yard gain on a well-designed draw play.
But after being hit by Rams safety Darian Stewart, Williams lay on the turf for several tense moments before getting up and walking off on his own.
Williams didn't return to the field, as the Cardinals fell to the Rams, 17-3, suffering their first loss of the season. Although it appeared Williams suffered a head injury and was knocked for a loop, the team later announced (per NFL.com) that he had sustained an injury to his left shoulder.
Williams finished the game with 33 yards rushing on 14 carries, a 2.4-yard average. Since being given the role of the team's featured running back, Williams has just 59 yards on 27 carries. Hopefully he hasn't been in your fantasy lineup, because that just won't get it done.
Since being drafted in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, Williams has been a disappointment. The Cardinals had high hopes for the former Virginia Tech star, but he suffered a ruptured patella early on in a preseason game against Green Bay and missed the entire season.
Williams looked good this past preseason and seemed to be a solid backup to Beanie Wells. Wells went on injured reserve with turf toe in late September and will be out until at least November. This would be the time for Williams to step up and emerge as the Cardinals back of the future, but that's not happening.
Much of it can be attributed to the offensive line, which is clearly the Achilles' heel of this team. In the last two games alone, quarterback Kevin Kolb has been sacked an amazing 17 times. In those same two games, the Cardinals only have 73 yards rushing as a team. The line is not opening holes, and Arizona is on its way to having an abysmal season on the ground.
So is Williams the problem, or is it the system? After all, even the year they went to the Super Bowl, the Cardinals were dead last in rushing.
This is a problem that the Cardinals need to address fast, or their 4-0 start to 2012 will become a distant memory, especially with games against the Packers, Falcons and 49ers (twice) still on the schedule.
The offensive line will need to get a lot better, but so does Williams. Most importantly, he needs to stay on the field.
Sadly, if his career keeps going on this track, all of that untapped potential that came with his second-round status will never be realized.
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