Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians was asked about his young running backs on Monday, on the heals of talking about Ryan Williams and his sore knee. Arians said he really likes the whole crop of runners he has.
"I feel very strongly about the running back room," he told reporters. "I think we have an NFL-quality room." That, alone, should be a given, as you would imagine.
After giving cursory mention to "both young guys" (rookies Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington), made it a point to mention Alfonso Smith, who made the final roster in 2011, but did not make it out of camp in 2012 (although he did spend time on the roster because of injuries to Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams).
The message from Arians? The running backs have to block well. "Alfonso stepped up in the backs on backers and really showed how tough he was yesterday," Arians said. "That's a major part of playing running back is the protection of the quarterback."
Smith "really attacked" on Sunday, whiche Arians liked. "That's how they get my attention," he said.
I talked to Smith after that in the locker room. He says, because of where he is on the roster, he has to step up when opportunities come. "Every year I try to get better at something," he said. "My opportunities are going to be limited, so when I do get out there, I have to make the most of them."
So what is his focus for improvement this year? One he told me was his pass protection, which is a must in the Bruce Arians offense.
The other part is his vision, reading his holes in the running game. "I know I have the speed to get through the hole, but sometimes I get a little anxious," he explained. "I think it comes from just trying to go out there and prove people wring and such instead of just being patient and let it come to me naturally. I go out there and I rush stuff sometimes, so I'm trying to work on that."
As long as Williams is out because of his knee (which is a day to day thing), Smith will get his shot. Can he find a way onto the roster?
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