Our Arizona Cardinals training camp positional preview continues. Next up are the running backs.
We take a look at the roster locks, favorites and longshots to make the team, the positional as well as the biggest questions about the group heading into camp and the season.
There is not a lot of uncertainty with the roster. Ryan Williams is gone, cut in the offseason and now with the Dallas Cowboys. It is likely that they will keep only four backs (unlike last year when they held a spot for Williams) and three are pretty set. Only one is up for grabs.
Who are the three locks? Andre Ellington Stepfan Taylor and Jonathan Dwyer.
Ellington is the unquestioned starter. Bruce Arians says the goal is to get him 25-30 carries and even suggested 20 carries and 10 catches.
Stepfan Taylor was a great pass blocker, caught the ball decently, was solid on special teams (except for blowing a pair of possible blocks on an onside kick that got Larry Fitzgerald concussed) and was good between the tackles. He will certainly make the roster.
Jonathan Dwyer was signed in the offseason. While his contract doesn't make him a lock (it's low risk), he worked under Arians in Pittsburgh. He is a big back that gets inside yards, he blocks well and can catch the ball some.
Favorite for the final spot:
Entering camp, that would have to go to Robert Hughes. He is big and versatile, able to be a fullback or a running back. He plays well on special teams. Arians said that "it will be hard" for one of the young guys to pass him up. Carson Palmer had praise for him, too.
The other backs in play (the longshots):
The three other backs on the roster right now are undrafted rookies Zach Bauman (out of Northern Arizona) and Damien Thigpen (UCLA), as well as Jalen Parmele. Parmele is big at 5-11, 225, but Bauman and Thigpen are little. The interesting for the latter two are that the team would perhaps like to have a backup with some of the same skills as Andre Ellington. That would give Bauman and Thigpen a chance.
More than likely, one of these players will have a shot at the practice squad, but that would be Bauman or Thigpen -- not Parmele.
While there are not big questions, there are a few.
Can Andre Ellington physically handle a full-time role, and will he be as effective?
How many touches will he actually get?
Who will be the primary backup, will Jonathan Dwyer or Stepfan Taylor get the bulk of the "rest of the carries"?
How much will Ellington be used at receiver?
Will any of the other backs be able to beat out Robert Hughes?
Last season the team carries five running backs, even though one was for Ryan Williams, who was inactive all 16 games. Does that mean one of the "other guys" has a chance?
Are there any other questions that are left to be asked? What are your predictions for the final roster at running back?
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