Running back Ryan Williams scores on a one-yard touchdown Thursday night against Denver.
DENVER – Ryan Williams burst through the line for a touchdown on fourth down and was left to think.
Was that enough?
The score of Thursday's night preseason finale at Sports Authority Field at Mile High – a 32-24 Cardinals win – didn't mean anything. What happened on the field to reach that final might have. The Cardinals are about to trim 22 names off their roster for final cuts, which will come by noon Friday according to General Manager Steve Keim.
Williams was one of those guys waiting to see if he is on that list. His showing Thursday might allow him to rest easier.
Coach Bruce Arians said he learned things from the game, such as how quarterback Ryan Lindley and wide receiver Jaron Brown stepped up in their quest to make the team. And he made plain his thought on whether he wanted to keep his oft-injured running back.
"Right now I'd keep all five (backs)," Arians said.
Told a few minutes later of Arians' comment, Williams burst into a grin.
"You have no idea how happy I am to hear that," Williams said. "You don't know."
Keim said there would be a lot of meetings in the next "24 to 48 hours" as the Cardinals (3-1) figure out the roster. The final 53 will change again after Keim and Arians get a chance to pick over the waiver wire and various cuts from other teams. Even the plan for Williams – who was reportedly available in trade – could be in flux over the next few days.
But that's not what the players were thinking about in Denver. They just wanted to stick around for now. One step at a time, whether it was Williams or quarterback Ryan Lindley – in danger of being cut if the Cards keep just two quarterbacks.
Already, one move is becoming clear. Veteran tight end Jeff King, who was supposed to finally get on the field for the first time this preseason, was a late scratch with his bad knee. The game was supposed to be an important one for King, fighting for a spot. After the game, Arians said King is probably going to have knee surgery Sunday in yet another attempt to get him healthy.
Lindley, playing all but the first series, ended up 17-for-29 for 214 yards and two touchdowns, including a beautiful 55-yard touchdown pass to Brown – another guy who seems to have clinched a roster spot. His passer rating was 104.7.
"I thought (Lindley) played extremely well," Arians said. "He was very comfortable out there."
But when asked if it was enough to want to keep Lindley, Arians held off, saying the "other guys" in consideration for that roster spot played well too. "It's still going to be a tough decision," the coach added.
With Arians making his two-quarterback possibility public, Lindley understood his position. He insisted he had long come to terms with his situation.
"I think BA, Steve, we have a great group of guys in the front office and the coaching staff, I know they will make the best decision for the team," Lindley said. "I respect that. I was going to give my best effort every day.
"You are putting a résumé on tape. I love the city of Phoenix, I'd love to be here. We'll see where the chips fall. I'll land on my feet. I hope it's here."
Few starters even played. The first-unit offensive line, all but set in stone with Levi Brown at left tackle, Daryn Colledge at left guard, Lyle Sendlein at center, Paul Fanaika at right guard and Eric Winston at right tackle, sat. So did quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
The only regulars on the field to begin the game were wide receivers Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd on offense, and linebackers Jasper Brinkley and Karlos Dansby on defense. And all four just played one series each.
Williams, however, got his work early and often. He carried nine times for 25 yards, looked unafraid of contact, made nice cuts and earned praise from Arians. The coach said Williams looked "up to football speed" and actually played Williams less than planned because he had seen enough.
Williams, who practiced just a handful of times in the preseason, looked like a man relieved. It's always possible he could still be dealt, but he showed he could still get on the field and play, saying it was the most natural he felt on the field since his 2011 knee injury.
"Every year I have to battle something new," Williams said. "The latest thing were the (trade) rumors and the time (off) hindering what I was doing. I had believers in the offseason turn into non-believers because of the time off so it was just a lot of stress. I am glad I came out and performed. And performed well."
In explaining why he could keep five running backs, Arians went back to the same thing he has been preaching all training camp – and the philosophy that will guide the final cuts.
"I'm not going to cut a running back who is a good football player to keep an average player just to have players at another position," Arians said. "We will keep the best 53 players we have."