Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt isn't ready to anoint Beanie Wells the Cardinals' starting running back. That hardly matters, though, considering the growing role the rookie from Ohio State is filling in the team's prolific offense.
Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt isn't ready to anoint Beanie Wells the Cardinals' starting running back.
That hardly matters, though, considering the growing role the rookie from Ohio State is filling in the team's prolific offense.
Wells rushed for 75 yards in 10 carries, including two for touchdowns, in the second half of Arizona's 31-20 victory over Seattle on Sunday.
Whisenhunt said Wells "is eager to be a great football player" and is paying attention to the team's leaders and coaches who are helping him move toward that goal.
In the past two games, Arizona's first-round draft pick has 157 yards in 29 carries, while starter Tim Hightower has 28 carries for 107 yards. Against the Seahawks, Wells gained 87 yards in 16 attempts, while Hightower had 37 yards in 10 carries.
On his first touchdown run, on fourth-and-one at the Seattle 10, Wells bounced outside and ran untouched for the score. He redeemed himself after his personal foul pushed the team back to the 19-yard line. His second TD was a 13-yard burst up the middle, Wells spinning through two would-be tacklers at the goal line.
"I wasn't going to be denied," Wells said after the game.
He also had a 29-yard run to set up Arizona's final touchdown.
In the last four games, Wells has 271 yards in 51 carries, an average of 5.3 yards per carry. He is second to Knowshon Moreno of Denver among rookie ball carries (520 yards to 395), but has 46 fewer carries (86 to Moreno's 132).
On Monday, Whisenhunt was asked if he foresees naming Wells the starter.
"That's an issue that when it comes, it comes," the coach said. "I think that we have always said and have been consistent that when we feel like it's time to make a change with those things we will do it if that's deserved. We're not going to make Beanie the starter just to make Beanie the starter.
"He has been running well, but so has Tim. The rotation we have going now has been very effective."
The emergence of Arizona's running game has opened up play-action passes for the already powerful passing game.
Wells has impressed with his power.
"He has become the physical running back that, when we drafted him, we thought he could be," Whisenhunt said.
The coach gave his players Monday off, but after the game on Sunday they were praising Wells' performance.
"He's a guy that is a big, physical back," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. "Even when it looks like they have him tackled, he's a guy who can break tackles. He adds another dimension for this offense."
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald befriended Wells last summer, and had him stay at his house while the rookie's contract was worked out with the Cardinals.
Wells was slowed in training camp by a sprained ankle, an injury that he knew accented the perception that he is prone to injury. Then came a couple of early fumbles.
But lately he has shown his speed and power, and even that he can catch the ball, something he wasn't asked to do at Ohio State.
"The thing that gets me laughing is when I start to see guys ducking their heads and turning their shoulders when he's running through the hole," Fitzgerald said, "because when he hits guys, everything is moving forward. He is so explosive."
Wells' power is accentuated by a nasty stiff-arm to fend off would-be tacklers.
"I think he's getting more confident," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "I think we're seeing the real Beanie Wells. I think there was a little tentativeness early, probably because of the fumble problems, because of some of the issues learning the offense and getting comfortable with it. But I think we all see why we drafted him."
Wells acknowledges it was difficult to deal with the slow start to his NFL career.
"I've had to work on my patience," he said. "My teammates have been keeping me humble and grounded. I have to know that when my opportunity comes, I have to be ready to step in there and do something."