Cardinals - Packers Aftermath, Whisenhunt Explains Running Back Options

The Arizona Cardinals lost their second preseason game to the Green Bay Packers, but a significant knee injury to promising rookie running back Ryan Williams is an even greater blow.

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Arizona Cardinals Running Back Ryan Williams Injury Confirmed; Whisenhunt Explains Options

Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt took questions Saturday afternoon about the team's second preseason  game. He and the team arrived from Green Bay about 2:00 a.m. in the morning. The first and obvious topic of conversation was the injury status of rookie running back Ryan Williams.

Whisenhunt confirmed that Williams suffered from a ruptured patella tendon and would miss the entire season. He's tentatively scheduled to have surgery early next week and based on experience with this type of injury is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for training camp next summer.

"We were very excited about Ryan," Whisenhunt said. "We think he's a fabulous young player and we're looking forward to having him with our team as we go forward. It's unfortunate. But whenever an opportunity ends for a player like that than an opportunity opens for another one."

The opportunity, in this case, falls first on Alfonso Smith

Smith, 23, went undrafted in 2010 after playing in Kentucky where he amassed 712 total yards. In 2007, he averaged 7.1 yards per carry on 21 attempts. In 2008 he carried the ball 74 times for a total of 313 yards. In 2009 he racked up 245 yards on 60 carries while dealing with injuries to his foot and thumb.

Smith impressed the Cardinals late in preseason last year with a good game against the Washington Redskins. Whisenhunt feels he's grown as a player since and brings good size and speed as well as an ability to understand the offense and his role in protection.  He's considered a physical back who runs hard and can "pound it in there".

The team will likely look immediately for a "body" who can take reps in training camp but they are going to keep their options open when it comes to finding a veteran who might come available.

"I don't want to hit the panic button because I've been please with what I've seen out of Alfonso. That's what this game's all about. That's what building a team's all about. You have to have players step up and fit into a role when they get that opportunity," Whiz said.

Anyone the team looks at will have to be the right fit from both a talent and role perspective but also fit with the team chemistry. The Cardinals' coach thinks the team is in a much better position this year to have other players step up.

"I think our chemistry is one that's building such that we'll rally around each other and that's a big positive for us."

Other notes

  • In addition Smith, Whisenhunt pointed out the good performances from Beanie Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling. Even before the Williams injury, Wells was already feeling there was more on his shoulders this season. Whiz felt he "ran angry" Friday night against Green Bay, which, he said, was good to see. 
  • John Skelton suffered an ankle sprain. More will be known on Monday or Tuesday about how long that might impact him. 
  • Both Darnell Docket and Calais Campbell played well early in the game. Both won their individual battles to get free and make plays. They're sacks came off beating their assignment as opposed to any kind of scheme designed to free them up.
  • Fullbacks Reagan Maui'a, rookie Anthony Sherman, and Charles Ali all played well. The Cards ran the ball well with them in the game. They did a good job finishing blocks and especially did well in making adjustments in space to get to the second level guy or diagnose the "mess" inside. Sherman made a big third down catch inside the ten. "It was nice to be able to call that play and know that we have that as a viable option."
  • Rob Housler has shown the ability to translate what he's studying to the field. He made athletic plays. Work in progress with his blocking technique but desire is there.
  • The corners overall did well according to Whisenhunt. Patrick Peterson got beat by the back shoulder pass from Rodgers but he didn't bite on the first move and was in good position. It's a learning process.

The Cardinals return to Flagstaff for their last week of training camp on Monday. We'll be there for the final four days of practice.

For more on the Cardinals, visit Revenge of the Birds.


Cardinals Fall To Packers; Kolb Looks A Little Sharper

The Arizona Cardinals lost a pair of six-point leads and dropped their preseason game 28-20 to the Green Bay Packers Friday night at the (un)-Frozen Tundra, Lambeau Field.

Of course we who follow the NFL know that preseason results matter little; it is the individual player and unit performances that matter as far as evaluation and regular-season preparations and deciding on the final 53-man roster and practice squad.

To that end, the Cards got a few such good performances despite the loss. And there were some negatives as well. 

Quarterback Kevin Kolb engineered a pair of scoring drives -- and improvement on his performance in the first preseason game -- as Arizona took a 6-0 lead on two Jay Feely field goals. The first unit on offense looked OK, particularly the harder, lower running of running back Beanie Wells and the lead blocking of fullback Reagan Maui'a

Kolb was looking early and often for star receiver Larry Fitzgerald but the two only connected for one 15-yard completion in the first quarter that set up a field goal. 

Kolb played three series (jnto the second quarter) and found rookie tight end Robert Housler twice for double-digit yardage. Kolb was 6 of 11 for 80 yards.

It wasn't a good night for starting left tackle Levi Brown, who was penalized for a hold and two false starts. A screen pass to Wells for 20 yards was nullified by a penalty on WR Early Doucet for an illegal shift in the second quarter. 

Arizona committed 11 penalties for the game.

The Packers tested starting cornerback A.J. Jefferson early, which was good for him, and Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell sacked Packers QB Aaron Rodgers when it was ones vs. ones. 

It was rookie first-round pick Patrick Peterson whom Rodgers picked on for a touchdown pass to receiver Greg Jennings that gave Green Bay a 7-6 lead with 4:54 left in the first half. 

John Skelton finished out the half with little success for the Cardinals, who trailed 14-6 at halftime. Skelton didn't return after hurting an ankle, and Richard Bartel entered the game to start the third quarter after Charles Ali forced a fumble and recovered it on the opening kickoff return of the half. 

Running back Ryan Williams was injured on a run early in the third quarter and was removed from the game on a cart. He suffered a right knee injury and didn't return, and it didn't look good.

Bartel finished the drive with seven-yard touchdown pass to Stephen WIlliams, who fought off his defender and created space in the end zone to make the catch.

The Cardinals went up 20-14 on a one-yard TD run for Alfonso Smith, who subbed in for the injured Williams and took advantage of his opportunity. But it was all Packers from that point, as they took a 21-20 lead on a 97-yard pass play in which cornerback Desia Dunn was beaten on the outside edge in one-on-one coverage with no safety help.

Bartel played most of the second half, with Max Hall getting one series of action at QB. Bartel was 13 of 19 for 169 yards with a TD and an interception thrown.

Former Arizona State receiver Kerry Taylor caught a touchdown pass for the Packers and got his chance to perform a Lambeau Leap into the crowd. For the Cardinals, O'Brien Schofield registered a sack and showed some skill off the edge on the pass rush. Housler, who looks like he could be a factor in Arizona's offense sooner or later, caught a team high five passes for 68 yards, and Wells ran for 44 yards on 11 carries. 


Rookie Ryan Williams Injures Knee In 3rd Qtr Of Cardinals/Packers Game

In the preseason, probably the most important thing for a team to achieve is maintain its health. Other than Adrian Wilson's bicep tear, the Arizona Cardinals have been pretty fortunate. But during the third quarter of their preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, Ryan Williams suffered an injury that hopefully is not serious. 

After carrying the ball for six yards in the third quarter, he was pulled down from behind and the Green Bay defender's knee came down on Williams' right calf. He stayed on the ground and had to be carted off. 

As he left, things looked bad. As the cart left the field, Williams held his head in his hands.

Later during the game, his agent, Malik Shareef, tweeted (and it was subsequently deleted) that it was, per Williams' mother, a knee injury but not an injury to the ACL.

The deletion could be one of two things. It could mean that the injury may be more serious or simply that his agent decided it would be better to not share anything until there was something more definitive after the knee has been examined. 

As the Cardinals traded Tim Hightower at the start of training camp, if Williams has to miss any extended time, the running back depth will be a concern. It will put even more pressure on Beanie Wells to have a big season.

As with many Cardinals fans, our thoughts go out to Ryan Williams and his family hoping for the best outcome. 


Kevin Kolb Leads Cardinals To Two Scores In Three Drives Vs. Packers

Kevin Kolb's second start was not amazing, but he did do something that he did not accomplish last week against the Oakland Raiders. In his three series manning the Arizona Cardinals offense against the starting defense of the Green Bay Packers, he led the team to two scores. They were field goals, but they were points. 

Kolb finished the night 6-11 passing for 80 yards. He did not turn the ball over. 

He was not spectacular, as he had a couple of bad throws and he lost 11 yards on a sack that never should have happened. 

However, overall, there was more balance offensively with success running the ball with Beanie Wells. The offense, when not getting penalized, moved the ball effectively down the field and used the clock, something that was almost unheard of a year ago.

For me, while he was not super sharp, he showed me what I wanted to see. He made some plays, he moved the ball and the team put points on the board. 

What we should want to see next week from Kolb and first-team offense is at least one touchdown drive. 


Cardinals/Packers: Todd Heap Out, Big Game For Robert Housler, Jim Dray

The Arizona Cardinals will face the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field soon this evening. However, they will do so without two of their tight ends. Todd Heap and Stephen Spach will both sit out the game. Heap sprained his thumb is last week's contest against the Oakland Raiders. Spach is out with a calf injury he suffered in practice.

Neither injury is serious. In fact, Heap would play if this were a regular season game.

What this does is open the door to rookie Robert Housler to show off what he can do. It also will give second-year tight end Jim Dray more looks.

The Cardinals are using the tight end much more in their offensive sets, so it goes to figure that three tight ends are a lock to make the roster. With the possibility of four, that leaves the veteran Spach and the young Dray looking at a bubble situation.

In particular, Dray needs to take advantage of the extra opportunities. Housler, on the other hand, will just be able to show what he can offer. We saw him score a touchdown last week and line up as a wide receiver in four-wide sets. His speed and height are sure to cause matchup problems if he shows enough consistency to make it onto the field.

Hopefully these young players can have a positive impact in a game that is more meaningful for them than it is for the entire team.

Catch more Cardinals coverage and commentary over at Revenge of the Birds.


Ryan Williams, Cardinals Rookie Running Back, Already Eyeing Greatness

Rookie running back Ryan Williams (second round, Virginia Tech) got a boost in his profile Sunday when the Arizona Cardinals cleared out one guy on the depth chart ahead of him. With Tim Hightower traded to the Washington Redskins, the Cardinals are sending Williams a message that he's heard loud and clear.

"They opened the pathway for me," Williams said after practice on Monday morning. "If I don't perform and if don't do what I need to do to get on the field than I'm going to look bad and it's going to make them look bad too. I don't want nobody looking bad."

Hightower's departure also cleared another roadblock for Williams. He can now wear number 34 which for a running back is the ultimate sign of greatness.

Williams was a fan of Walter Payton since he was a kid and even emulates his running style a bit on Sweetness' distinctive high-step, "I have a little something, it's not quite like his but our styles favor but different in a couple of ways."

The young rookie is totally focused on his job, which right now means learning the playbook. He has no TV or computer in his dorm room and has no desire to go out on the town and sample some of the Flagstaff restaurants.

Williams' has his head buried in the play book and is even more motivated by being on the same field as some of his football heroes.

"I feel like a little kid out here seeing Larry Fitzgerald, (Darnell) Dockett, I mean guys like that I was watching them, playing them on games and now I'm with these guys. It feels good. It feels good that I made and now I've got to work as hard as these guys."

Williams might have one path opened to him with the Hightower trade, but coach Ken Whisenhunt made it clear that Beanie Wells is "the guy" and will get the the opportunity to "run with it".

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