TEMPE, Ariz. — The Cardinals worst fears on running back Beanie Wells were confirmed Wednesday when the club placed him on the injured reserve/designated for return list with a severe turf toe injury that will sideline him until at least late November.
Wells suffered the injury late in the first half of Sunday’s game against Philadelphia and was sidelined for most of the second half. Second-year player Ryan Williams will become Arizona’s featured back
Under a recently added IR exception, Wells is eligible to come off the list on Nov. 25 against the St. Louis Rams, which means he will miss a minimum of seven games. The injury is the latest in a series of debilitating injuries that have dogged Wells since the Cardinals drafted him with the 31st pick in the 2009 draft.
When Wells reported to training camp his rookie season, he injured his ankle on the first day, hampering his early development. He missed three games in 2010 due to arthroscopic knee surgery, and he played all of last season with an injured knee that required offseason surgery and forced him to miss all of spring ball and a good portion of training camp. Despite the injury, he still ran for 1,047 yards and 10 TDs in 2011, earning praise from coach Ken Whisenhunt for his toughness.
Wells has rushed for 76 yards on
29 carries in the first three games of 2012, while Williams has a
team-leading 105 yards on 31 carries.
“It not’s so much as we look at it is a loss because we know we’re going to get him back,” Whisenhunt said Wednesday. “With the type of injury he has, we anticipate six to eight weeks at least before he’ll be ready to go, so if you look at our schedule, it will be good to have him back at that point.”
The Cards’ schedule gets much tougher in the second half with games against Green Bay, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago and San Francisco.
Whisenhunt has not decided yet if LaRod Stephens-Howling will step into the No. 2 role behind Williams, but he seems to be leaning that way if Stephens-Howling can recover from a hip injury that sidelined him in Wednesday’s practice.
“We’ll see as the plan progresses this week,” said Whisenhunt, who also has William Powell and newly re-signed Alfonso Smith as options. “The last game of last year, LaRod carried most of the load and did a good job. He can do it in that role, or he can do some of the things that we’ve asked him to do this year and have specific plays for him.”
Thought to be the Achilles’ heel of the offense heading into the season, Arizona’s revamped offensive line has allowed just five sacks, which is tied for ninth best in the NFL.
Inexperienced tackles D’Anthony Batiste and Bobby Massie are getting help in protection from the running backs and tight ends but have still held up better than expected against some good pass rushers the first three weeks.
On the flip side, Arizona’s offense is still ranked 31st in the NFL at 263.3 yards per game. Despite a perceived array of weapons at the skill positions, the Cards’ passing offense is ranked 29th at 181 yards per game, and the rushing offense is 27th (82.3 yards). It’s not as though the offensive line is dominating anyone.
On Tuesday, The Cardinals added fullback Korey Hall and brought back running back Alfonso Smith. Smith’s addition was made to shore up the backfield after Wells went on IR. Whisenhunt termed Hall’s addition as insurance in case Anthony Sherman is unable to go.
In addition to his role at fullback, Sherman is a valuable special teams player who caused the fumble on an Eagles punt return last week that Mike Leach recovered.
Hall spent four years with the Packers and last season with the Saints before the Saints cut him at the end of 2012 training camp. He played with guard Daryn Colledge in Green Bay and at Boise State.
To make room for Hall, the Cards cut tackle Pat McQuistan. The Cards also made a practice squad move, bringing back linebacker Zach Nash and releasing former University of Arizona linebacker Ricky Elmore.
Receiver Larry Fitzgerald was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after catching all nine passes thrown his way for 114 yards and a touchdown last Sunday against the Eagles.
It’s the second time Fitz has won the honor and the second time in as many weeks that a Cardinals player has been selected as player of the week. Defensive end Calais Campbell earned defensive honors following the Cards’ Week 2 victory over the New England Patriots.
QB John Skelton said his sprained ankle is “not quite there” yet. He said he split scout team reps with rookie QB Ryan Lindley and did some work in 11-on-11 drills, but rolling out still bothers him when he has to roll his ankle.
Asked if he’d be ready for this week, Skelton said: “I was hoping this week. We can still hold out for that. We’ll see.”
DT Darnell Dockett (hamstring), TE Todd Heap (knee), TE Jim Dray (knee), FB Anthony Sherman (hamstring) and RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (hip) did not practice on Wednesday.
Safety Rashad Johnson (hamstring), LB O’Brien Schofield (knee), QB John Skelton (ankle), OG Adam Snyder (elbow), SS Adrian Wilson (ankle/groin) and P Dave Zastudil (calf) were limited.
OG Daryn Colledge (shoulder), CB Jamell Fleming (shoulder), TE Jeff King (knee), RB Ryan Williams (knee) and FS Kerry Rhodes (foot) practiced in full. Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter