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A Penny Wasted (Preaching Physicality?)

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Can any of the Cardinals’ coaches, especially head coach Steve Wilks, who preaches and demands “physicality,” look any of us fans in the eyes and say that CB Brandon Williams is a better roster fit than FB/RB Elijhaa Penny?

You see, this pre-season was cruising along to the tune of Steve Wilks’ lyrics about DNA and physicality and leaping hurdles—-and now suddenly this week—-with GM Steve Keim back on the scene—-some of the same-old same-old is creeping back into the decision making.

Steve Wilks has said repeatedly that the Cardinals’ top priority on offense is to run the ball down the opponents’ throats. In the pre-season, from the very first offensive snap we saw a full-scale commitment to the running game. David Johnson was banging out 10 yard runs, behind a revitalized offensive line led by the return of LG Mike iupati.

Then we saw the diminutive Chase Edmonds, crawl and slide with his arms to one of the more improbable 4th and goal from the 2 yardline TDs one could ever imagine.

There was the much celebrated return of the fullback to the Cardinals’ attack. Free agent FB Derrick Coleman showed surprising athleticism—-which is great—-but when you compare Coleman’s blocks to recently released FB Elijhaa Penny’s, Penny’s were superior.

Finally, in the last pre-season game, we had the chance to see a power running game, with Penny carrying the ball. This was right in line with what Steve Wilks has been preaching for three months, right?

Come roster cuts—-Penny is out the door—-and now has a chance to be claimed by the Seattle Seahawks where he can block and run next to his brother. In Seattle, they value the power running game and recruit for it.

But, wait—-Brandon Williams is a stalwart on special teams, right? Really? How many times this pre-season did you sit up and notice Williams on special teams? In comparison, how many times did you notice Rudy Ford, Dennis Gardeck, Zeke Turner, Deatrich Nichols, A.J. Howard and Trent Sherfield?

The coup de grace was listening to Ron Wolfley and Paul Calvisi explain why Brandon Williams’ speed on STs helps others make the tackles. Is that how desperate the Cardinals are to find a way to postpone the reality that drafting a one-year college CB in the third round while bypassing the likes of DB Justin Simmons (Broncos) and QB Dak Prescott (Cowboys) was a colossal error in judgement?

By releasing Penny on the aftermath of losing D.J. Foster to the IR, the Cardinals now have only 4 RBs on the roster. Either today through waivers, or some day in the near future, the Cardinals are going to have to add another RB to the mix.

The Cardinals are playing the Redskins in week one. How satisfying was it last year to see Elijhaa Penny run 10 times for 45 yards and a TD—-but, even better, to watch him run over D.J., Swearinger and knock him on his keister twice!

It is getting harder and harder to imagine Wilks’ Cardinals running the ball down the opponents’ throats with David Johnson, two diminutive scat-backs in Chase Edmonds and T.J. Logan and a fast, but not very physical FB in Derrick Coleman. Elijhaa Penny was the right compliment to all of these players—-except, obviously, in the minds of Steve Keim and Steve Wilks?

Plus, who would you rather have on special teams with the game on the line—-Penny or Williams? Last year, Budda Baker was 3rd in the NFL with 16 STs tackles. Elijhaa Penny was 21st in the NFL with 11 STs tackles. Guess who is a no-show on that list?

The larger ramification of releasing the team’s most rugged, punishing RB not named Johnson and its 2nd leading tackler on STs, is the demoralizing thought that suddenly with the Steve Wilks—-some of the words and the music are no longer matching.

By every indication, Steve Wilks seems like a stand-up guy who means what he says and acts on it. You know—-a guy who talks-the-talk and walks-the-walk. Seeing as how smoothly things were going before Steve Keim returned—-it feels like we have an imposing, overzealous GM who does not fully understand the mission of the new head coach. Moreover, it feels like we have a GM who is backing his new head coach into a corner. If that is indeed the case, we can only hope that Steve Wilks strikes back and strikes back hard.