What we know about the Cardinals offense is that they won five games last year when they ran the ball at least 20 times in the contest. Despite this fact, the ground game was not a success in 2011. The addition of Kevin Kolb should bolster the passing game to a level that opposing defenses cannot simply dare the Cardinals to throw.
The team also acquired more tight ends – Todd Heap, Jeff King, and Rob Housler – to join Jim Dray as a corps of players that will help provide more formation versatility. King is the big addition for the ground game. However, the greatest disappointment of the football weekend had to Cardinals RB Ryan Williams tearing his patellar tendon in Friday’s preseason game against the Packers.
The immediate questions beyond Williams’ career is that of Arizona’s running back depth. Chris Wells has shown difficulty staying healthy and playing through nagging injuries. LaRod Stephens-Howling is viewed as a change of pace back. Alfonso Smith is an unknown.
There is a lot of discussion among the football media about how the Cardinals will strengthen its depth chart. There are several veteran runners that could land in Arizona by September. Cowboys runner Tashard Choice might be the most obvious. The Panthers’ Mike Goodson is another talented player that could get bumped from his loaded depth chart.
If the Cardinals have done due some diligence with their scouting., here are 10 lesser known runners on the bubble with other teams that I believe could contribute if they don’t land a Choice or another known name.
Tyrell Sutton: Sutton is a versatile runner from Northwestern who thrived as a collegiate start because of his shiftiness and receiving skills. He continues to surprise casual observers in the NFL with his toughness between the tackles. Sutton is patient, rarely gives a defender a direct angle, and he breaks tackles. If not for the logjam on the Carolina depth chart, Sutton would see the field more often as a change of pace runner. While not as electric as Mewelde Moore, he could provide this kind of reliability and greater effectiveness between the tackles.
Josh Vaughan: Hightower’s former teammate at Richmond, Vaughn reminds me of a raw Jamal Anderson. He’s a thigh-legged, powerful runner with pretty good quickness and lateral agility. Vaughn catches the ball well and he could spell Beanie Wells. If Wells gets hurt, Vaughn and LaRod Stephens-Howling would complement each other effectively.
Joique Bell: Bell reminds me of Tim Hightower in several respects. He runs with a low center of gravity and he’s quicker than fast. Bell is shifty, but capable of running through contact. His patience is was noticeable at the 2010 Senior Bowl as was the Wayne State star’s competitiveness. Bell dies hard on every play. A knee injury is temporarily sidelining Bell after an impressive start to camp with the Saints. Bell would have been a practice squad player at best in New Orleans. If the knee is healthy enough by late August, the Cardinals could benefit from his skills.
Cedric Peerman:If you read my work at Footballguys.com then you know that I believe Peerman is a highly underrated player. The Bengals runner is battling with Jay Finley for the No.3 job on the depth chart. I don’t believe Finley is remotely as good of a runner as Peerman, but if Peerman can’t stay healthy then it’s a moot point.
This has been Perrman’s issue for three years now: minor nagging injuries that keep him out of practice. Peerman didn’t have these recurring issues at the University of Virginia, but in the NFL he’s bounced from Baltimore to Cleveland to Detroit and now to Cincinnati because of it. When he’s been on the field, he’s flashed agility, power, second and third effort, and game-breaking speed. He has lead-back talent.
Xavier Omon: Perhaps my favorite back mentioned thus far. Omon’s trademark is patience and yards after contact. The NW Missouri Valley State star rushed for 1000 yards in each of his four college season and the Buffalo Bills drafted him a couple of years ago in the sixth round. Omon had some moments in Bills camp during his initial preseason, but didn’t make the cut. The Seahawks had him on their roster for a brief period of time as camp fodder.
This year, Omon made enough of an impression in camp to get his name added to the second-team depth chart last night against Oakland. Omon did well with his carries. Well enough that a team like Arizona could take notice if the 49ers let him go. It’s pretty likely they will considering Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon are backing up Frank Gore in the city by the bay. Then again Dixon could be the odd man out of Omon continues to thrive and Dixon struggles. In this case, Dixon would be a nice addition in Arizona as well.
Chad Spann:Spann could be on the roster bubble because he muffed a couple of kicks in the first preseason game. However, he hasn’t returned kicks in five years and when the Colts used him at running back he was effective between the tackles and as a receiver out of the backfield.
I could create a category on this blog called “Chad Spann,” with all the things you can read about him here. He can play, but so can Delone Carter and Darren Evans. Since the Colts already made up their minds that Spann would be the return specialist, they might not be open to the idea of keeping him as a runner. I’d take his quickness, patience, and smarts over Evans who is a more one-dimensional entity.
Jalen Parmele:Parmele runs hard, demonstrates quickness, and he has room to grow. There is talk that he could be on the roster bubble in Baltimore because of the recent signing of Ricky Williams. I see that logic, but I don’t agree with it. Williams was likely signed because the team wants an established veteran presence to split time with the younger Parmele in case of a Ray Rice injury. However if I’m wrong, Parmele could improve the Cardinals’ woes.
Gartrell Johnson: Quicker than fast, Johnson breaks tackles and pushes piles. The third-year NFL journeyman has bounced around with stops in San Diego and New York (Giants) before he signed with Atlanta last September. He’s performed reasonably well in camp, but with Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers in the fold, Johnson is likely the odd man out. He’s a poor man’s Michael Turner, which a team coached by two former Redskins players of the Hogs era would appreciate.
Brandon Saine: Saine is a straight-line runner, but he has incredible hands and good long speed. Although this list isn’t in order of talent, he’d be near the bottom of mine because he’s not particularly imaginative or agile. However, he is powerful and good on third down.
Kregg Lumpkin: The former University of Georgia runner was a highly-regarded recruit entering college. He was in fact, the top prep prospect in this class, which included Reggie Bush. Lumpkin suffered numerous injuries while in college and this held him back from showing his vast potential. Although a knee injury robbed him of his third gear, he still has a solid burst and he’s good after contact runner. He catches and blocks well and he’s making a push for the No.2 spot in Tampa Bay. I think he’ll stick this year, but if something changes over the next two weeks to indicate otherwise, he’s another back that Arizona should know about.