Previous Installment: QB
In 2014, Cardinals fans were excited to see what Andre Ellington could do in his sophomore season. We were let down after a string of injuries put to ruin his season. A foot injury that he suffered in the preseason would dominate his play, until a hernia put him on injured reserve. Stepfan Taylor showed some potential as a number two back, but those glimpses were rare.
You also had Kerwynn Williams and Marion Grice make an impact. Williams was the only 100 yard rusher for the Cardinals in 2014, and recorded 60+ yards in three of his four games. Grice was an effective goal line back for the team.
Lastly there was Jonathan Dwyer. Dwyer only played in two games before the team suspended him for his role in a domestic abuse case. So.. Not much to say about him.
With seven backs on the roster, at least two will be shown the door, with three being more likely.
So who's on the roster in 2015? Lets look.
Ellington, as noted earlier, suffered a plethora of injuries in 2014. From his foot, to a hip injury, and ultimately a sports hernia. Ellington ran the ball an average of 17 times per game. That was two times as much as his eight attempts per game in 2013. It showed that Ellington is not the premier back Arians hoped he could be. In 2015 it will be a running-back by committee approach, that will still heavily feature Ellington.
While Taylor may not be the fan favorite back, he's a serviceable player. In 2014 he ran for 208 yards on 63 attempts, for a 3.3 yard average. After Ellington, there were not really many snaps to go around for the runningbacks. Ellington toted the ball 201 times all season. As mentioned earlier, Taylor had it only 63 times. That's 138 carries different. Taylor proved he can be a contributor in the receiving game, scoring three times and averaging 7.2 yards per reception. I don't think Taylor will be the odd man out this year.
Grice was a mid season addition off of the Chargers practice squad. The ASU alumni got to play close to the school that got him into the league. Despite being a midseason addition, Grice only managed 15 carries for 41 yards and a score during the regular season. He has a hill to climb to make his way onto the roster this season, but with the team carrying 4-5 backs this season, he has a shot.
Williams came to the team just prior to their first game against St. Louis. The next two weeks, he recorded 100 yards against Kansas City, and 75 in the second matchup against St. Louis. He recorded the lone 100 yard game for a Cardinals back all season. Williams did not score however, which was a rare occurrence for any back all season. As of today, Williams would be my #4 back on the roster.
Hughes was the Cardinals fullback in 2014. He had some glimpses of opening holes for backs, but the fact the offensive line could get no push all season, Hughes looked bad often. With the addition of TE Gerald Christian, who has a history of shifting to the backfield to help open holes, Hughes could be shown the door as the preseason closes.
The Cardinals 3rd round pick has drawn a lot of attention from media outlets. Whether claiming him to be the Cardinals diamond of the draft, or comparing him to the likes of Matt Forte. He figures to be the Cardinals #2 back behind Ellington. Johnson posted three consecutive 1000 yard seasons at Northern Iowa, finishing his career with 4682 yards rushing, and 49 scores.
Johnson has drawn rave reviews for his ability to catch out of the backfield, finishing his career with 14 scores and 1734 yards receiving. With what, at least on paper, appears to be a much improved offensive line, the duo of Ellington and Johnson has the chance of being very special.
The All-American rugby star, turned running back for the BYU Cougars, Lasike likely won't stick around. He could be a possible Practice Squad candidate come September, but his use on the final 53 roster is likely non-existent. He scored 10 times in his collegiate career, seven times his final year. He ran for 843 career yards, 364 came in his final year.
The running back position is healthy, and with Ellington and a possible #2 in Johnson, this room could possibly be the most dangerous on the team.
Next week, we will address the receivers, and the tight ends, as we continue to meet the players on the roster.