Rookie Playing Time Projections: Offense

The Arizona Cardinals focused on the defensive side of the ball early in last year's draft and received little contributions from their rookies on offense. Tim Hightower proved to be the team's main weapon and another running back could be the gem of this year's draft class. Brad Wilbricht predicts which Cardinals rookies will see the most playing time on offense during the upcoming season.

The Arizona Cardinals selected RB Chris Wells with their first-round draft pick and he'll be expected to contribute more than any other rookie in this year's class. Given the emergence of RB Tim Hightower, Wells won't be depended on as the full-time starter early on but he'll certainly get his fair share of touches. Wells is a bruising and dynamic runner that brings a tremendous blend of skills to the field.

Wells will more than likely take a back seat initially as Hightower assumes the role as the team's feature back. However, at some point in the year the Cardinals will likely reverse those responsibilities with Wells taking over the starting spot. Hightower thrived as a change of pace back and goal-line specialist last year and could be an excellent compliment to Wells off the bench.


Herman Johnson
(Getty)

Arizona's starters along the offensive line are stable but not set in stone. If rookie OG Herman Johnson can optimize his conditioning and endurance, he could end up seeing the field more than expected. Reggie Wells is firmly planted at left guard but there have been concerns surrounding Deuce Lutui on the right side of the interior line. Johnson could find himself battling second-year lineman Brandon Keith for playing time.

Johnson's size (6-foot-7, 364 pounds) speaks for itself and the former LSU star could progress quicker than anticipated under offensive line coach Russ Grimm. In addition to Keith, Elton Brown is a viable option off the bench for the Cardinals. If Johnson is able to pass both players on the depth chart, he'll be in line to play a major role in 2009.

Both RB LaRod Stephens-Howling and OG Trevor Canfield displayed superior ability in the college ranks but are unexpected to make an instant impact in the NFL. Out of the two, Stephens-Howling has a better chance due to his versatility as a third-down back and in the return game. Arizona parted ways with J.J. Arrington following the 2008 campaign leaving a major void in both of those areas. However, with Hightower and Wells already in the backfield, there will be few touches available for Stephens-Howling.

Meanwhile, Canfield will need to work his way up the depth chart, passing several players in the process if he's able to accomplish that goal. Like Johnson, Canfield will benefit from working with Grimm and could be on an accelerated learning curve. Even if he doesn't see the field much as a rookie, Canfield is a valuable reserve with a foundation to build on for the future.


Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at brad.wilbricht@gmail.com
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