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Injuries create opportunities for jobs to be won for Cardinals

With injuries plaguing Arizona's other running backs, Kerwynn Williams has seized an opportunity to cement his place on the team. Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There's one upside to the rash of injuries the Arizona Cardinals have suffered during the first week of training camp.

Younger, little-used players are getting a chance to get legitimate reps and put together a tape that could win then a job on the Cardinals' roster.

"One man's injury is another man's opportunity," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.

There have been about a dozen players missing from practice on any given day during the last week, including starters such as running back Andre Ellington and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. As the injured recover and rehabilitate, their backups -- and their backups -- are getting much-needed air time in front of coaches.

And some are taking advantage of it. Arians said there are "a bunch" of jobs that could be won while injured players are on the bench.

Kerwynn Williams, who entered training camp fourth on the running-back depth chart, might be the poster child for taking advantage of injuries. While Ellington and rookie David Johnson are recovering from hamstrings, he's become the most impressive running back on the field.

Arians couldn't predict if Williams would have made this kind of impact had the other backs been healthy.

"I don't have no crystal ball," he said. "All I know is what we got and he's the best right now."

Filling in for injured teammates puts some players in an awkward position. They don't want to see their comrade go down but, at the same time, it's a chance they might not have had. Williams said it's tougher to see teammates go down who "are important to the process of what we're trying to accomplish."

Williams doesn't feel like he needed an injured teammate to impresses coaches.

"I think your effort and that attitude at the end of the day will definitely allow you to have other opportunities," he said.

The Cardinals became familiar -- too familiar, some might say -- with the "next-man-up" mentality last season when 21 players missed a total of 109 games. That was an anomaly. But crowded training camp training rooms have become commonplace.

So have players taking other players' jobs.

Like Williams, backup inside linebacker Kenny Demens doesn't want to see injuries plague teammates like Weatherspoon but isn't going shy away from an opportunity to get more reps.

"It's always the next man up," Demens said. "But however you can get here, I guess you can get here.

"If it's need, outplaying (someone) or it's next man up; whatever it is, you always want to be prepared on the playbook."

Williams isn't the only backup catching Arians' eye. He said a couple young linebackers are taking advantage of their opportunity and impressing the coaching staff.

"When you get all these opportunities," Arians said, "you either get exposed or get exposure."