The Arizona Cardinals are quite disappointed in the lack of production they got from the quarterback position last season once Kevin Kolb went down with rib injuries. However, an upgrade at the signal caller position isn’t the only one in the cards for the Cards from the desert; the Beanie Wells experiment has not worked due to his constant injuries, and it is time for the worst team in the NFC West to officially start over at the half back position.
But where does general manager Steven Keim start? The free agent market is somewhat enticing, especially since the Cardinals have some pretty good change-of-pace backs in William Powell and LaRod Stephens-Howling; all the Cardinals really need is a power back who can rush the ball 15-20 times per game. Now is the time for the Bruce Ariens-led Cardinals to get a running back that is good at powering through the tackles.
The most trustworthy running back at getting tough yardage while running north-and-south is probably Shonn Greene, who is coming off a nice year where he gained 1,063 yards and scored eight touchdowns for the New York Jets. Assuming the rebuilding Jets let Greene walk, the Cardinals could offer him a 2-year contract, as he is only 27 years old and has rushed for 1,000+ yards in his past two seasons. Furthermore, Greene is the anti-Beanie Wells in the injury department: he has played in all of the Jets’ 32 games throughout their past two regular seasons.
The Arizona Cardinals might be able to stay within their division and acquire an old foe: St. Louis Rams' Steven Jackson. If Steven Jackson decides that he wants to live in the warm climate of Glendale, the former Ram definitely has something left in the tank. The 3-time Pro Bowl running back is coming off a year where he still rushed for 1,042 yards, despite the fact that he received the least amount of touches since his injury-plagued season of 2008. The Rams may not want to bring a running back going into his 30’s, which gives Keim the opportunity in bringing in a tailback that is very used to playing against Western Division defenses.
Reggie Bush is a name that comes to mind, but he is only a good decision to bring to Glendale if they truly believe Powell or Stephens-Howling are able to carrying the ball 10-15 times per game. Bush’s size has always been an issue with carrying the ball north-and-south, and the Cardinals may consider offering the former Dolphin a multi-year contract a blunder. As a result, it might be in the best interest of the Cardinals’ front office to taking a chance on Rashard Mendenhall, who is a good running back when he is not injured or complaining about playing time. Cedric Benson would be a definite good idea at bringing to Glendale, but the Lisfranc injury he suffered to his foot in Green Bay makes bringing the veteran back a huge risk. Chris Ivory had some decent games during his tenure at New Orleans, and he is only 24 years old. However, the Saints had so many competent running backs in Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, and Chris Ivory. Ivory has looked good in limited action, but there are question marks around him being a long-term investment as a power back.
The NFL Draft might be an effective place at getting an adequate running back that can keep the offensive game plan balanced. The best-case scenario would be the Cardinals picking up the NCAA’s all-time rushing touchdown king in Montee Ball in the third round, although his impressive resume might lead to a team reaching for him in the second round. There really is not a Trent Richardson-type of running back in this year’s draft class, so it would be best for the Cardinals to wait until the third round. Besides Ball, the Cardinals could select a running back in the 2013 NFL Draft that are capable of starting right away: Joseph Randle from Oklahoma State, Michael Gilleslie from Florida, and Christine Michael from Texas A&M are just three names that come to mind.
The Cardinals' offensive line was bad, but it is also imperative that they improve the running back position. A solid running back will help keep the opposing defense guessing to what is coming next, which might make it an environment that any quarterback, including a backup, can effectively be a part of throughout the 2013 season.
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