Injuries open door for other running backs

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The more time running back Ryan Williams misses with an injured right knee, the more opportunities Stepfan Taylor, Andre Ellington and Alfonso Smith will have to take his job.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said “it’s hurting [Williams] extremely not to be on the field competing for a job, because those other guys are doing so well.”
Arians praised all three backs behind Williams at Monday’s media availability, saying “they’re separating themselves from the rest of the pack and playing extremely good.”

We’re not sure what “pack” Arians is talking about since there are only five backs in camp: The three he mentioned and the two who are hurt – Williams and presumed starter Rashard Mendenhall (knee tendinitis).

Arians also said it’s possible the Cardinals could keep four or five backs, depending on how they’re playing, so it’s hard to tell whether this was just another coach sending a message or if the threats are real. In any case, Arians outlined what he sees in each of the three backs, noting all have done very well in pass protection, which will be vital in the Cardinals’ vertical passing game.
“Stepfan is a power back that has really good vision. He likes to run between the tackles,” Arians said. “Andre is a slasher who has made some great cuts inside and outside, but doesn’t have quite the power Stepfan does. 
“And Alfonso is a downhill runner who’s bringing it every time. As our safeties and linebackers have found out, he’s a pretty good wall to try to run through on pass protection.”
As for Williams, he insists he’s not worried about losing his job.
“Once I’m on the field my play will speak for itself,” said Williams, who will miss Friday’s game in Green Bay after having a cortisone shot in the knee (not the tendon). “I know for a fact that I will be playing in the Cowboys game (Aug. 17).”
Mendenhall took another day off to rest the knee that’s been experiencing tendinitis.
“It’s really calming down, and we don’t want to aggravate it at all today,” Arians said.
Arians also noted that Daryn Colledge, who has a nerve issue in his leg, is progressing nicely and Karlos Dansby (hamstring) is close to returning. None of the previously injured players was expected to practice Monday.

Arians said not to make too much of the team’s first depth chart, noting that linebacker Daryl Washington is listed third at his position, which won’t last once he returns from his suspension. Nonetheless, the chart is out.
There were no major surprises. The five starting offensive linemen are left tackle Levi Brown, left guard Jonathan Cooper, center Lyle Sendlein, right guard Daryn Colledge (injured) and right tackle Eric Winston. Carson Palmer is the QB, Mendenhall is the running back, Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd are the starting wideouts and Jeff King and Rob Housler are the starting tight ends.
On defense, end Calais Campbell, nose tackle Dan Williams (injured) and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett are the linemen. Sam Acho, Jasper Brinkley, Karlos Dansby (injured) and Lorenzo Alexander are the linebackers.  Patrick Peterson and Jerraud Powers are the corners, and Yeremiah Bell and Rashad Johnson are the safeties.
Javier Arenas is listed as the starting kick returner and Peterson is the punt returner, with kicker Jay Feely and punter Dave Zastudil holding their normal spots.
You can view the entire depth chart here.
Arians said the plan is to play the starters for about 15 plays in Friday’s preseason game at Green Bay.
“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “If one side or the other gets stuck playing into the second quarter, we’ll just see how it plays out — how we’re playing.”