Cardinals vs. Bills: Running backs William Powell, Alfonso Smith ready for their opportunity

Norm Hall - Getty Images

One or both figure to have the opportunity for carries on Sunday.

The Arizona Cardinals did not seek another running back via trade or free agency after Ryan Williams went down for the season with a shoulder surgery, it said something. It said one of two things -- either they feel fully confident with the guys they have on their roster or there isn't anyone available that the team feels could make a greater impact that the back they have before Beanie Wells returns later in the season.

The truth is that it may be a little of both, which is perfectly ok. When Kevin Kolb was asked about how the running game will be without Wells or Williams, he said, "Well, we have confidence in whoever is back there."

That would be the standard answer.

LaRod Stephens-Howling is coming back and he has handled the load before. Last season in Week 17, when Beanie Wells was out with an injury, he carried the ball 21 times for 93 yards against a very tough Seattle Seahawks defense.

But it won't just be him that will take the burden of the running game. Rookie William Powell and second-year player Alfonso Smith also will get their chance, and they are ready for it.

Powell won a spot this season after leading the entire league in rushing yards during the preseason. But he was cut after carrying the ball 29 times in the preseason finale in 2011.

Powell spoke to the media on Wednesday. "Even though I was at home praying for my chance, being prepared, keep working out, staying ready," he said. "I can't say I would've imagined it, being in a situation like now, but hopefully I can make the best of it."

He may get more than just carries. With Stephens-Howling likely getting the bulk of the carries, Ken Whisenhunt said that his duties returning kicks "probably" would be affects.

That is where Powell steps in.

"He has already done that (returned kicks) in a regular season NFL game where he almost broke that one against Miami to start the overtime period," said Whisenhunt. "He's got a knack for doing that. Some guys do. He's shown a knack running the football. I hope that shows up on Sunday, too."

Powell showed this preseason that he was up to the task.

"It was really about what we saw from him this year as far as not having a comparison as much to last year," said Whisenhunt when asked how Powell had improved from last year to this year. "He did everything well. He did protection well. He ran the ball well. He did a nice job with his routes. He was very productive. I think that's one of the things that really stood out. When you look at guys that come a long way to make a team, he did that."

Alfonso Smith will also probably have his name called on offense.

In Seattle last season, he carried the ball 17 times for 54 yards in a 13-10 loss. He was cut this preseason. Coming back after that has him focused to be successful.

"I've already been cut. I've been cut three time, so I know how it feels," he told reporters in the locker room on Wednesday. "So I'm extremely focused and I know that I have a great opportunity in front of me and I'm going to do whatever I can do to take full advantage of it."

Is it something he thinks about, getting another shot in the league?

"I try not to think about it too much," he explained. "I don't want to put any unnecessary pressure on myself, but I know that I have to go in there and I have to execute. I know that I have to run exactly how I run. I can't go out there and try to be Ryan (Williams) or be William Powell.

"I've learned to just slow everything down. It's nothing different out there. In some ways it's just like the preseason. Guys are out there, they're going to hit you hard. You've just got to run, you've got to read your holes. It's not always going to be perfect. It's not always going to be a play where you have a long run, so sometimes you've got to take two or three or four yards sometimes."

Both consider it a "big opportunity."

As young running backs go, the hardest part is sometimes trying to do too much. Ryan Williams was guilty of that when he fumbled the ball against the Patriots. He did it again at home on a third and one and tried to make a move rather than getting the first down .

Smith said "you have to have some kind of self-control."

The running game has been a struggle, especially the past couple of weeks. The two young backs want to improve that. "A lot of the running plays, it's minor details," said Powell on what has gone wrong. "It's one guy here, one play there, one reason for the line not being successful. So we're really big on the details. We're trying to work on that every day."

How many carries each will get? We won't know until Sunday. However, it seems certain that one or both will definitely have a chance to make an impact on a very important game for the Cardinals.

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