September 28, 2012
I had half a mind to say Ryan Williams should be the Arizona Cardinals starting running back back before the season even began. If it hadn’t been for a complete destruction of his patella tendon in the 2011 preseason, I probably would have vouched for him. After all, he was one heck of a talent coming out of Virginia Tech, and starter Chris “Beanie” Wells was entering the new year with another lingering injury – this time to his knee.
Instead of completely backing Williams as a special player for 2012, I erred on the side of caution. He was coming off of a major injury, Wells was still there, and the Cardinals’ mess at quarterback (which now looks to be resolving itself) just combined for too much of a question mark. But I still warned everyone to keep their eye out for him and said that if Wells struggles with injuries in again in 2012 as he so often does, Williams won’t take long to take over.
I was half right. Williams hasn’t really “taken over” yet, and any taking over that he does finally do may be mostly because Wells isn’t around. Regardless, with the recent news that Wells would be placed on the “designated for return” injured reserve, I rejoiced in the back of my mind, because I knew there was now at least a chance that Williams could finally begin to live up to the immense potential that had the Cardinals selecting him early in the 2011 NFL Draft.
But just because the way he got to the starting job wasn’t entirely up to him doesn’t mean the path moving forward can’t be churned by him, and him alone. In fact, I’m banking on it being quite a show.
Wells is out for a minimum of six weeks, meaning he can’t hit the field and threaten Williams’ role again until November 25th.
Unfortunately, the road won’t be easy. Not on paper, at least. Which is why, if Williams can perform even decently, I think the torch will be passed for good in Arizona.
Williams already has the baton in hand, and after rushing for a team-high 83 yards (on the year, mind you) against the Eagles in week three, I think he’s tightened the grasp.
In week four he takes on a tough Miami Dolphins defense. They don’t look like much and are mostly a group of no-name guys, but they get the job done and are pretty feisty. Yards will be tough to come by, but with the role he’ll have, I think Williams’ combination of power and speed will help him get the last laugh with the final 5-10 carries.
After Miami, Williams’ road to showing he’s the man eases up for two weeks, as he faces a very weak St. Louis Rams run defense, and a week later he takes on a Buffalo Bills run defense that has been a bit wishy-washy this year. Regardless of what happens against Miami, I think these two contests have Williams running wild and truly regaining the exciting form he had before his horrible injury last year. The confidence and swagger will be fully back, and the NFL world will be introduced to a special running back they thought was possibly gone forever.
After that, he might hit a wall with matchups against the Vikings and 49ers, but then gets a soft Green Bay Packers run defense. Wells will be ready to return two weeks later, but by then I firmly believe it will be too late.
Williams is a special player with an extremely high ceiling. A terrible injury knocked him out of the 2011 season and had many thinking his 2012 season or even his career could be in serious jeopardy. Instead, he’s now the starting running back and a strong stretch away from keeping that title for good.
My guess is this is a remarkable story that develops into a very solid career. It’s still really early, but I can’t wait to see it all unfold perfectly for a good character guy who has worked extremely hard to fight for his dream job. He finally has it. Now he just needs to go do what he does best.