Sometime down the road, Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells will remember the 2011 season as a pivotal point in his NFL career. He will remember it as the year that the team gave him full running back duties, due to the trade of Tim Hightower to the Washington Redskins and the season-ending injury suffered by rookie Ryan Williams. Based on the first four games of the season, Wells may also come to remember his 2011 season as a top five running back.
Through the season's first quarter, Wells has totaled 321 yards on the ground, placing him in a tie for eighth among all running backs with Houston's Ben Tate. Wells, however, has played in only three games this season, having missed Arizona's Week 3 game against the Seattle Seahawks. If you extrapolate Wells' numbers over four games, he would have 428 yards on the season and would move up to second in rushing yards, behind only Darren McFadden (468 rushing yards) of the Oakland Raiders.
Wells has also been efficient with his touches. Among running backs with 50 or more rushes this season, Wells ranks fourth in the league in yards-per-carry with a 5.4 average. He trails only McFadden (6.2 ypc), Buffalo's Fred Jackson (5.8 ypc) and Philadelpia's LeSean McCoy (5.5 ypc).
Wells also leads all running backs in touchdowns, recording five touchdowns in his three games. He won't have many days like he did this past weekend against the New York Giants, when he rushed for three touchdowns, but he will get lots of looks at the goal-line with no other Cardinal running back eating up carries.
All-in-all, Wells has been great in his three appearances this season and should keep up this steady production if he can stay healthy. Unlike last year, Wells is running with confidence and is proving to be a significant contributor in the Cardinals offense. If he continues to play like he has so far, Wells could finish the season with some of the best numbers in the NFL among all running backs.