The Arizona Cardinals used this year’s first-round draft pick on running back Beanie Wells, wanting to upgrade their running game to complement one of the best passing games in the league.
In a sense, it’s worked: Wells has 57 carries for 238 yards, a 4.2-yard average that’s better than fellow running back Tim Hightower this season, and also better than either Hightower or Edgerrin James last season. And yet even though Wells is running the ball well, he hasn’t cracked the starting lineup and doesn’t get as much playing time as Hightower.
The reason, as John Czarnecki of FoxSports.com explains, is that Wells remains a liability in pass protection.
That’s a common problem with highly drafted rookie running backs: They were talented enough with the ball in their hands in college that they could get away with being one-dimensional players who didn’t know the nuances of picking up the blitz. NFL teams, on the other hand, aren’t going to put a running back on the field if he can’t protect the quarterback.
That’s especially true in Arizona, where Kurt Warner is having another good season but is 38, immobile and has had plenty of injuries during his career.
A quarterback like Warner is only one missed blitz pickup away from having his career ended: Just ask Steve Young, who was knocked out by Aeneas Williams on his last NFL play when running back Lawrence Phillips missed a blocking assignment.
So, yes, the Cardinals would like to get Wells on the field more. Just as soon as Wells can pick up the blitz.