NFL Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals: Ryan Williams Must Stay Healthy in Backfield Competition

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Williams has lingered on the minds of NFL experts as a potential breakout candidate for the past three offseasons. The incredible gifts he showed as a redshirt freshman at Virginia Tech warranted this, so the hype machine has rightly churned for the potentially game-changing running back ever since he was taken by the Arizona Cardinals 38th overall in 2010. The Cards having terrible backfields each of the past two seasons also aided his breakout candidacy.

However, Williams hit injured reserve early in consecutive years, and now battles injuries yet again. Fortunately, as Kent Somers of AZ Central tweeted this weekend, Williams has a chance to return soon from knee injury: “Ryan Williams on crutches today. Arians said Williams could return next week. Had some kind of treatment.”

This might be Williams’ last chance to make a mark in Arizona. Unlike past years where the biggest competition was Beanie Wells (poor) or LaRod Stephens-Howling (not a featured back), Cardinals training camp in 2013 features plenty of quality challengers. While Rashard Mendenhall is also missing practices with injury, he should be back to challenge for No. 1 RB role alongside rookie running backs Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington — players having their praises sung in training camp by head coach Bruce Arians. It could be a fast slide down to No. 4 in this backfield.

Cutting Williams now would mean over $1.1 million of dead money against the cap, but another poor season and cutting Williams after 2013 would present just $535K in dead money. The talent I believe is there, so hopefully he can stay healthy enough to forge a role behind this new-look Cards offensive line.

Thomas Emerick is a Senior Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEmerick, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google