TEMPE, Ariz. – Tell me if you’ve heard this before: Andre Ellington goes down with an injury in late November, Kerwynn Williams is promoted off the practice squad in early December and Stepfan Taylor sees his role go from almost nonexistent to crucial.
If it sounds like déjà vu, that’s because it is. Ellington suffered a turf-toe injury Sunday in San Francisco. Williams was promoted from the practice squad Tuesday. And Taylor will see his snaps increase because Chris Johnson was lost until the Super Bowl with a fractured tibia, opening two running back roles that need to be filled this Sunday in St. Louis.
Except there’s a twist this year.
The Cardinals’ running game won’t hinge on just Williams and Taylor, as it did last December. They’ll be providing support for David Johnson, the rookie who’s primed to take over the every-down role that was vacated when Chris Johnson was placed on injured reserve/designated to return on Tuesday.
But Williams and Taylor have practice in becoming December stars for the Cardinals.
“You don’t want to expect it, but you got to take account of injuries and things happen,” Taylor said. “So, you got to be ready for it. You don’t want to be exposed if you’re not ready for it. We did do a good job as a group competing all the time, being ready for that top spot. When things like this happen, you have to be ready.”
Williams has been waiting for his chance.
Until Tuesday, Williams spent all but Week 2 on the practice squad. But Williams said he’s been preparing each week in the event he was needed on short notice. Like last year.
“It’s pretty much out of your control,” Williams aid. “So, all you can do is bring great attention and effort every day to practice, every day to work. That’s all you can do.”
Even though Williams said last season feels like it happened years ago, there’s no outrunning the comparisons to 2014, when he ran for 100 yards in his first game playing in place of Ellington. Williams has pushed that game out of his memory, saying he doesn’t spend time thinking about it every day. Even coach Bruce Arians referred to Williams’ stretch last December.
“That happened last year,” Williams said. “It’s over.
“Each situation is different. It’s a different team than it was last year. I try to treat each situation as a different situation. It’s all changed. It’s a new year. I’m not resting on those laurels from last year. I’m on to new things.”
Maybe to him. To his teammates who were on the field that Sunday in Glendale against Kansas City and to those who watch him every day in practice, Williams’ performance last season – 246 yards in the final four games – is anything but a distant memory.
“I’m glad he’s still here,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “I think we were all kind of holding our breath when he was on the practice squad, knowing what kind of player he is, what his potential is and what he’s capable of.
“But we’re watching him go against one of the best run defenses in the league every day in practice. Very excited about his opportunity. Glad he’s still here.”
Williams seemed a bit taken aback by Palmer’s words.
“Hopefully I can live up to his high praise,” Williams said.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians expressed his confidence in both Taylor and Williams on Wednesday.
Even for Arians, this is like an old movie on repeat. Except this time, he doesn’t know the ending.
“The ‘next man up’ is a real thing and somebody else is going to get hurt this week,” Arians said. “Somebody else is going to have to step up against Minnesota on a short week. That’s just the way football is, especially in December. I think you’ll see.”