Scott Bordow: Ladies and gentlemen, meet the next great Cardinals’ running back. OK, it’s not a long list. In fact, there may not be a list at all.Arizona hasn’t exactly been overstocked at the position. But here comes Beanie Wells, all stiff arm and smile, a star in the making.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the next great Cardinals’ running back.
OK, it’s not a long list. In fact, there may not be a list at all.
Arizona hasn’t exactly been overstocked at the position.
But here comes Beanie Wells, all stiff arm and smile, a star in the making.
Wells certainly got the star treatment after Arizona’s 31-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks Sunday. As photographers backpedaled to shoot him trotting off the field, several teammates ran up and patted him on the shoulder pads.
It was a Welcome-to-the-NFL moment, recognition for a second half in which he rushed for two touchdowns and 75 of his 85 yards.
Tim Hightower may still be the starter on Sundays, but that’s just a notation on the stat sheet. Wells has become the Cardinals’ No. 1 back and to watch him now is to wonder how 30 teams could pass on him in last April’s NFL draft.
“I think we all see why we drafted him when we did and … the power, strength and explosion he brings to the offense,” quarterback Kurt Warner said. “It’s fun to watch him.”
A word of caution: Wells is just a rookie. A lot of things can go wrong from here to stardom. Remember Johnny Johnson, the Cardinals’ seventh-round draft pick in 1990? He ran for 926 yards as a rookie and went to the Pro Bowl. Three years later, he was a New York Jet. Two years after that, he was out of the league.
But greatness almost always starts with physical gifts and, boy, does Wells have those. He has the burst and quick feet of a much smaller back, but at 6-foot-1 and 228 pounds he can run over people.
“You see guys out there. They don’t want to tackle him,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “We laugh sometimes because as the game wears on you start seeing guys ducking their heads and turning their shoulders. He’s strong, man. He’s got grown man strength.”
Wells showed off his combo platter of skills on his second touchdown Sunday. He accelerated through a huge hole, spun out of two tackles then barreled over safety Deon Grant, who had as much chance of tackling him as a gnat does of stopping an elephant.
“I only had one guy to beat and I wasn’t going to be denied at the goal line,” Wells said with a smile.
Ah, yes. That smile.
Wells almost always has an ear-to-ear grin on his face. He’s Miss America in cleats. That’s why it was so surprising to see him lose his cool during a third-quarter altercation with Grant.
Wells pushed Grant after the whistle blew and Grant shoved him back in response. Wells then slapped Grant in the face mask and was flagged for a 15-yard personal foul. A first-and-goal at the Seattle 4-yard line turned into a first-and-10 at the Seahawks’ 19.
“That was terrible,” Wells said. “I never in my life got mad on the field like that because I’m always smiling. … That was the first time I lost my composure like that playing football since I was about 8 years old. … The other guy got the best of me a little bit, I guess.”
Wells got an earful from his teammates and the coaching staff.
But he redeemed himself on 4th-and-1 from the 10 when, on a play designed to go inside, he recognized there wasn’t a hole, cut to the right and raced around end for a touchdown to tie the game at 17.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt has brought Wells along slowly, much like he did a year ago with rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Wells’ progress took a hit when he fumbled twice against Jacksonville, but he’s become a focal point of the running game as the season has wore on, and over the last two games he has 159 yards on 29 carries.
Sunday, he even caught two passes for 32 yards, disproving the notion that he has stone hands and that’s why Ohio State never threw the ball to him.
“I don’t think it was ever a thing where I couldn’t catch. We just didn’t throw the ball at Ohio State,” Wells said, laughing.
To celebrate Wells’ coming out party, the Cardinals brought him into the interview room and stuck him behind the podium, a space usually reserved for Whisenhunt and Warner.
“This is like the press conference when I first came here,” Wells said.
Here’s guessing it won’t be the last.