What Does Arizona's Schematic Facelift Mean for the Cardinals Backfield?

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What Does Arizona's Schematic Facelift Mean for the Cardinals Backfield?
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Since head coach Bruce Arians completed his coaching staff just a short time ago, we all have a good idea as to what the the general offensive and defensive philosophies will be. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will keep the Cardinals' 3-4 scheme in place, and Harold Goodwin will implement Arians' vertical-style passing attack.

However, the expectations of the backfield will be completely different, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. Coach Arians had this to say to Urban:

They [running backs] are back there because they are runners and pass protectors. Will we throw to the backs? Yeah. But the receivers are the ones paid to catch it. (Running backs) are helping but it’s doubtful our running back leads the team in receiving.

That statement provides a tiny bit of insight into Arizona's offseason plans. It will most likely spell the end for free agent LaRod Stephens-Howling's tenure in the desert. Over the course of his four-year career in Arizona, 24 percent of his touches have come as a pass-catcher.

Per Spotrac, he made $1.927 million last year as the team's third running back. Both Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams will most likely be back next year given the status of their contracts. The only one who could end up possibly being tossed out the door would be Wells. But at this point, that's a long shot at best.

Yet I don't think the Cardinals would make a decision on Wells until after free agency and the draft. He carries a low cap number of $2.42 million in 2013, so it would be hard to let him go at such a cheap price. This season will be his make it or break it year based on the fact he's a free agent at the end of the 2013 season.

There's only one scenario in which I could envision him not making the Cardinals roster. He would have to suffer some type of serious injury that would put his season in doubt. Considering his injury history, that's definitely not out of the question.

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Since entering the league in 2009, Wells has missed 13 games in four years. His rookie season marked the only season in which he has appeared in all 16 games. A certain disappointment based on the fact he was often labeled as "soft" and "injury-prone" while at Ohio State. 

Although, that doesn't mean there isn't hope for the often injured running back. He did run for 1,047 yards on 245 carries in 2011 and scored 10 touchdowns. Not to mention he set the Cardinals single-game rushing record on November 27, 2011, against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis.

But November 27, 2011, is now viewed as an afterthought or a simple blip on the radar because the NFL only cares about what kind of impact a player is making right now. Not what a player has done in the past. The past performances provide some insight on the player, but ultimately it carries very little merit if the performances are few and far between.

Which is why the inconsistencies from Wells and the unknown nature of Williams' recovery leads me to believe the Cardinals will be searching for another backfield addition on Day 2 or 3 of the NFL draft.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

I could easily see Marcus Lattimore as a great fit in Arians' offense, but Lattimore falls into the same trap as Wells and Williams. He has a lower-body injury history that could easily become a lingering issue based on a number of underlying factors. So even though his fit may be strong, his injury likeness may take him off the Cardinals board.

Another, less injured, running back that I like for Arizona is Eddie Lacy. Many draft experts feel there may not be a first-round back taken in this year's draft, ultimately leaving him available for Arians and company with the 38th pick.

His powerful running style gained him notoriety all throughout his junior season, but the game that stood out to most was his incredible performance in the BCS championship game. He was named offensive MVP and finished the season with 1,322 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns. 

These two players are just early examples of schematic fits for the Cardinals going forward. Plenty can happen from now until training camp, yet the initial changing of the guard is already taking place in Arizona. The Cards' backfield situation will be something to keep an eye on over the course of the next couple of months.

 

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