As the Arizona Cardinals begin their quest to cut the team’s roster size from 90 to 53 by the end of the preseason, we’re taking a look at every player at each position group and determining their odds of making the final cut.
Player: Kerwynn Williams
Position: Running back
Experience: 4th NFL season
Contract status: 2017-$675,000, 2018-Unrestricted free agent
2016 season quick review: Williams didn’t begin the 2016 season on the Cardinals’ active roster, but the Utah State product has had an on-again, off-again relationship with Arizona’s roster since his career began back in 2013. Outside of a brief stint at the beginning of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, the Cardinals are the only team that has given Williams an opportunity, and last season, he ran with it. Though Williams only rushed 18 times last season, he racked up 157 yards for an impressive 8.7 yards per carry average that caught head coach Bruce Arians’ attention. Arians loves the quickness Williams brings to the Cardinals’ backfield, and commended him for how well he handled his role as the team’s Wildcat quarterback, especially considering Williams was often able to make something out of nothing when the offensive line had trouble setting blocks. Williams capped off his season with a 12-carry, 60-yard performance in Los Angeles that should help his case for a roster spot in 2017.
Projected roster status: Though the Cardinals have reportedly shown interest in veteran free agent running backs, the team has yet to acquire one this offseason leaving Williams as the current favorite to back up starter David Johnson. Even if Arizona does sign a free agent, Williams will likely still earn a spot on the team’s 53-man roster provided he can stay healthy through training camp.
Projected depth chart status: At this point in time, Williams appears to have an inside track on backing up Johnson, and is currently the No. 2 running back on Arizona’s depth chart. While this is subject to change based on how rookie T.J. Logan performs during camp and whether or not the team decides to add a free agent tailback, Williams is currently in the good graces of Arians and the rest of the team’s coaching staff which means he should have some sort of a role this fall.
CardinalsSource.com analysis: Though Williams is only 5-foot-8 and 198 pounds, he showcased tremendous short-area quickness and great elusiveness last season when given the opportunity to fill in behind Johnson. The Cardinals primarily used Williams out of a Wildcat set, but he has the skill set and the speed necessary to help the team in shotgun formations because it doesn’t take long for Williams to get up to full speed and because he hits the hole at the line of scrimmage with his legs churning. Williams isn’t the type of back who’s going to drag tacklers and he has yet to establish himself as an asset in the passing game as a blocker or as a receiver, so there are some limitations to what he brings to the table which is why he’s found it challenging to stick on the team’s active roster for an extended period of time. Nevertheless, Williams and the Cardinals turned a corner last season, as the team was hungry for secondary production behind Johnson and found it in the form of Williams. Even if he only gives the Cardinals 10-to-15 offensive snaps a game, there’s value in putting Williams in the backfield and giving Johnson a breather, or splitting Johnson out wide. The Cardinals have talked in the offseason about adding a backup tailback who has the same type of skill set as Johnson, but we think Arizona may be best served by using Williams as a complementary piece who brings a change of pace to the table.
Overall value: With a cap hit of just $675,000 in 2017, Williams won’t need to do much to prove the team’s investment in him was worthwhile this year. Even if Williams handles the ball fewer than 20 times again this year, if he matches his production level from 2016 and keeps defenses off balance, the value he’ll provide the team with will be enough to justify the minimal financial commitment the Cardinals have made.