As we count down the days to training camp, Around the League will examine one player from every team set for a breakout campaign in 2012. We now dig our claws into the NFC West and the Arizona Cardinals.
Ryan Williams ready to begin again in Arizona.
Ryan Williams never left the gate last season.
The running back saw his rookie campaign with the Arizona Cardinals go up in flames after suffering a torn right patella tendon in the preseason. He was a nonfacter for a team that could have used the help.
One year later, Williams' knee is ahead of schedule. He set off sparks at practice last month with his first carry of the offseason.
"I haven't run that fast since I got hurt," Williams told the team's official website. "They sprinkled me in there. ... I was like, 'Wow, I'm almost back. I'm almost back.' "
"He looked good," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "You forget his quickness, his vision."
The Cardinals have an attractive problem on their hands. The backfield is deep for the first time in years.
Arizona leaned on Beanie Wells for 72 percent of the team's carries last season. His 1,047 yards and 10 touchdowns were career highs, but he went under the knife after the season to repair an injured knee. Arizona would like pair Wells and Williams this season, with a dash of LaRod Stephens-Howling on the side.
This three-headed monster is years in the making for Whisenhunt, but it remains, for now, a backfield on paper.
Reports suggest Williams will be eased into training camp and tightly monitored. He was drafted in the second round to become the Cardinals' starting running back and, if healthy, will be a focal point of the offense.
Some of our "Making the Leap" candidates have already produced in this league. Williams is a young player with a serious injury in his rear-view mirror. It's possible the quickness and flash he showed at Virginia Tech are gone, but if not, he impacts Arizona's offense like few others on the roster.