Arizona Cardinals: Should the Team Try to Acquire a Running Back?
Currently, the Cards sit atop the NFC West division with a 4-1 record, but with the play of their offensive line and their running game, that could easily slip away.
On the season, Williams ran for just 164 yards in five games, getting 2.8 yards per carry. On top of that, this will be his second season that is cut prematurely due to injury. It is especially disappointing considering his battle back from last year's ruptured patella tendon.
So where does that leave the Cardinals?
They will now rely on a trio of backs named Larod Stephens-Howling, William Powell and Alfonso Smith. Between them, they have 407 career rushing yards.
In NFL history, teams that start the season 4-1 make the playoffs 77% of the time. If the Cardinals don't address the offensive line, which has allowed 17 sacks in the last two games, and their rushing attack, they'll be part of the 23% that miss them.
So do they go with these three relatively unknown backs, or do they look to bring in a more polished, experienced player? If they go the latter route, here are some options.
Deangleo Williams/Jonathan Stewart
Williams and Stewart have formed a two-headed backfield for the last several years in Carolina, but the type of offense they run with Cam Newton doesn't really suit them to the best of their abilities. Newton carries the ball as many as either of them and the team also has Mike Tolbert. The Cardinals would likely have to give up a fairly high draft pick if the Panthers were willing to part with either of these two, but they both have plenty of NFL miles still in front of them.
Is this guy in the doghouse in Dallas or what? Jones has just three carries on the season as he has been just about eliminated from the Cowboys' offense in favor of DeMarco Murray. But in his career, Jones has over 2,300 rushing yards and has averaged 5.1 yards per carry. He would come with some health risks, as he has missed time due to injury himself, but he would also offer the Cardinals a much more explosive option than they currently have.
Just two years ago, LaGarrette Blount burst onto the scene in Tampa Bay and made everyone forget about the cheap shot he threw against Boise State while in college. In his first two years, Blount ran for 1,788 yards in just 27 games while scoring 11 touchdowns. This year, however, Blount has 44 yards on 13 carries. Why? Tampa Bay used their first round draft pick on highly touted running back Doug Martin out of none other than Boise State. Martin has not only taken the starting job from Blount, he's on the field nearly every snap and when he's not, DJ Ware comes onto the field. Blount seems like a prime candidate for a trade.
Should Arizona trade for or sign a free agent running back?
Some may see this as a long shot, but it's not. The Broncos are not high on Knowshon Moreno, who was selected in the first round by a previous regime. In fact, he's been a healthy inactive the last three weeks as the Broncos have tried to bring along rookie Ronnie Hillman. Moreno even sits behind Lance Ball on the depth chart. Those in the front office of Arizona should make an overture to Denver.
If the Cardinals aren't interested in trading for a new runner, there is a familiar option available on the free agent market in former Cardinal Tim Hightower. In three seasons in the desert, Hightower ran for 1,733 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also caught 118 passes for another 801 yards. Hightower would be familiar with the settings and coach Ken Whisenhunt, but the big question would be whether or not Hightower is fully recovered from the injury he suffered last year as a member of the Washington Redskins, which is reportedly why Mike Shanahan chose to sign Ryan Grant instead of Hightower.
The Cardinals could, of course, choose to stay the course with the players they have, but these are some options that they should explore, at the very least.
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