With so much talk about the importance of the quarterback position in today’s NFL, the running back or running back committee often does not get the recognition as it used to. This is because the running game has become more of a supplementary part of the offense for many organizations.
However, one can argue that in most cases, it is necessary to have an adequate running game to succeed. Just one team made the playoffs while recording single digit rushing touchdowns. At the same time, none of the teams that fumbled the ball more often than they scored a rushing touchdown qualified for the playoffs.
This shows you the importance the running game still has in the NFL today. Therefore, here’s a breakdown of the running back situation of the Arizona Cardinals.
Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Russ Grimm was in charge of a dismal running game last season. The unit, consisting of primarily Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells, recorded only 1,388 rushing yards—the worst in the NFL.
That is not a coincidence, considering they rushed the fewest times last season, with 320 attempts.
In comparison, the Kansas City Chiefs rushed 556 times, while the average number of rush attempts in the NFL was 435 attempts. Although the Cardinals have Larry Fitzgerald on their roster, it is questionable that they hardly ran the ball, especially since they clearly have not found their answer at quarterback.
The Arizona Cardinals lead rusher last season was Tim Hightower, who recorded 736 yards on 153 carries, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. However, he only found the end zone five times last season.
Hightower also fumbled five times, and was close to non-productive in the passing game. He is now a restricted free agent, but he has been offered a tender and is expected to return.
Beanie Wells was the second part of the Arizona rushing tandem. The 22-year-old rushed for 397 yards on 116 carries, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. He had 2 rushing touchdowns and a fumble, and just like Hightower, hardly contributed in the passing game.
Many people expect that even if Tim Hightower returns, Wells should be competing for the starting job next season. He’s under contract till the end of the 2013 season.
One of the problems the Arizona Cardinals have is their offensive play calling. Despite not having found their answer at the quarterback position, they insist on throwing the ball. If they run the ball more often, it would take more pressure off their quarterbacks.
Additionally, look for the Cardinals to search for a pass-catching running back, who could be effective on screen passes and other running back-designed pass plays.