I was listening to the pregame show with Kent Somers last Thursday and during the show he went on a long spiel in regards to some Twitter posts about how the Cardinals should trade or cut Ryan Williams because he is inactive each week. Somers stated in reply to those tweets that Williams is too talented to cut. His comment irked me, if he is so talented why isn't he playing? I'm sure many other fans said the same thing as Somers went on to say that Williams isn't playing because of Mendenhall; he stated it is either Mendenhall or Williams as they are similar backs. I don't see the similarity and began to wonder about why Williams isn't getting playing time.
At first I began to wonder how healthy Williams is right now and if that is the reason why he isn't playing. Williams has been sitting on the bench for six weeks and has experienced no real football contact since the preseason so it is likely he is fully healed. According to Somers he has been practicing every week and is a second team special team's player. Williams has been on ice for almost two months and not on the injury report so that cannot be the reason.
So why isn't Williams active on game days? As most already know Bruce Arians has said he is not on the active roster because he does not play special teams. If Somers is right and it is either Mendenhall or Williams, Arians is choosing to go with Mendenhall as he believes he is the better player. But is he? Right now the Cardinals have a rookie sensation in Andre Ellington who is turning into yet another late round gem for the Cardinals. He is a dynamic weapon who has produced with limited touches. He has 28 rushing attempts for 179 yards and 20 receptions for 190 yards. On 48 touches Ellington has 369 total yards; averaging a phenomenal 7.7 YPT (yards per touch) and has 22 total yards more than the Cardinals starting running back. It shows that a running back can have success in our offense.
Ellington isn't the only back experiencing some success on limited touches; Alfonso Smith has 54 yards on 11 carries and 62 yards on nine receptions, a total of 4.3 yards per touch. Currently Mendenhall has 281 yards on 92 carries and 66 yards on 10 receptions, a total of 3.4 YPT. He has had more opportunities and done less with them. The two backs behind Mendenhall have been effective with far less touches. Is Mendenhall to blame or are the stats misleading due to the circumstances?
I believe Mendenhall can be a good back, but he needs around 20 touches a game. In Mendenhall's best season, 2010, he averaged 20 carries a game and was effective. So far the most he carries he has gotten this season is 17 and it was against a very good Carolina defense. On the season Mendenhall is averaging just 13 carries a game. In limited snaps Mendenhall has not performed to the level the team needs him to. In defense of Mendenhall he has faced some very good defensive fronts in Carolina, San Francisco and Seattle and gets the bulk of his carries on obvious running downs, unlike Smith and Ellington who tend to play more on passing downs. The team is also often playing from behind and passing first. None of this is good for Mendenhall who is a back that needs more than just a few touches to do damage. But right now that isn't how the offense is playing. The offense desperately needs RB's who can be effective with limited touches.
Currently Footballoutsiders.com has Mendenhall ranked 20th of 30running backs with more than 50 carries. Ellington, on the other hand, is the number one ranked running back of all backs with between 10 and 49 carries. From what we have seen this year from Bruce Arians' pass happy approach is that the Cardinals need backs that can be effective with limited touches and it has become apparent that Mendenhall is not effective in that regard. It may be that Mendenhall is the better running back overall, yet currently he is ineffective in how he is being used.
While I know Bruce Arians is opposed to a running game by committee it is time for him to adapt to the talent his roster provides and utilize it to help the Cardinals offense find some rhythm. Unless Arians decides to become a run first team featuring Mendenhall getting 25 touches a game (which I would like) it is time to give Williams a shot and see what he can do. The offense needs to feature running backs that can do damage with limited touches. Back when Williams was healthy he showed flashes of being able to hit the home run at any time. So far we have seen that Mendenhall cannot so it is time to turn to Williams to see if he can. While I doubt this will happen as Arians is a guy who runs "his offense," we can hope he will not follow in the steps of his predecessor and adapt rather than stubbornly plod ahead.
More from Revenge of the Birds:
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