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Ready To Ride Wells And Williams

Cardinals finally get to see what running back tandem can do


Running back Ryan Williams (left) and Beanie Wells are ready to team up after both dealt with rehabbing injuries in the offseason.

The wait to unveil a backfield of Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams was like a family headed to an amusement park.

At least, that is Williams' analogy.

"Everyone is so happy to go," Williams said. "Then everyone got held back because one of the roller coasters got shut down. Then the other roller coaster got messed up.

"Now," Williams said, looking over at Wells' locker, "we got the metal and oil fixed up on the roller coasters and we are ready to go."

For a team that figures to lean on the running game more this season, the health and performance of Wells and Williams is crucial. Both are coming off injuries that kept them out for chunks of the offseason and early training camp. Neither is proclaiming themselves 100 percent healthy, but both express optimism of where they are and excitement to get back into a game.

"I don't want to say (the running game) will carry us, because we have a good quarterback," Wells said. "It'll be a collective effort. But I definitely think it will be a strength, because with all of us healthy, I think we are all pretty good running backs."

Both Williams and Wells are quick to include LaRod Stephens-Howling and even William Powell when asked about the running backs, and Stephens-Howling especially will give the Cards some flexibility. The running game will hinge on the top two guys, however. The possibilities are intriguing after Williams missed all of 2011 with a ruptured patella tendon and Wells played through a bad knee almost all season.

Wells still cracked 1,000 yards (1,047) and added 10 touchdowns in 14 games, averaging 4.3 yards a carry.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt has mentioned multiple times during the preseason that he was pleased about his run game in part because it's been good enough to stave off questions about why it isn't good enough. Some of that is the belief Wells and Williams will return to health. Some of it is the hot spotlight on other parts of the offense, like the quarterback situation and the uncertainty on the offensive line.

"I'd like to have run the ball a lot better six years ago, but we for whatever reason because of the way of our attack, our approach, how we've tried to fit our offense to our personnel, we haven't done it as consistently as we would've liked," Whisenhunt said.  

"Do we want to be better at it? I think you always want to be better at it, but if it means we have to throw the ball or we have to do some other things in order to score some points or move the ball without turning the ball over, we are going to do that as well."

Wells joked that if it was up to him, the Cards would run the ball 90 percent of the time. That's not going to happen, obviously, but there may be more carries to go around than, say, when Wells and Tim Hightower were splitting time.

The coaches have always stressed that they aren't suddenly going to run all the time just to be a running team. The defense will open avenues for success and the Cards want to take advantage, either running or passing.

Besides, offensive coordinator Mike Miller said, there is still somewhat of an unknown quality with Wells and Williams in terms of what they can be as a tandem.

"We always felt we'd have something once those guys were healthy," Miller said. "To say we have a sense of what they can be, sure. But it's got to be proven on the field."

Williams is convinced. The two different running styles "can mess with a defense's head," he said.

Kind of like a roller coaster at an amusement park.

"I think the run plan we have for this week is good and plays to our strength, and you let guys like Beanie and Ryan loose, you never know what is going to happen," guard Adam Snyder said. "We just give them a hole and they hit it and the rest is what they can do."

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