For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about which player will have the greatest amount of pressure on him in 2010. Obviously, most people will immediately think of Matt Leinart, which I did. While Leinart will definitely have pressure on him this season, no reasonable person can expect him to perform like Warner did; at least not right away.
Coach Whisenhunt definitely appears to be a reasonable person and he certainly knows that he can’t push Leinart with air-it-out play-calling the way he did with Warner. As a result, the bulk of the pressure to carry the offense really isn’t on Leinart. The new starter, rather, will probably need to find ways not to lose games more often than he will need to find ways to win them. In other words, the Cardinals will only need solid play from Leinart, not exceptional play.
I believe the weight of Warner’s retirement will fall on Beanie Wells, which seems promising. Wells had a great rookie campaign. First, he put to rest the lingering doubts about his physicality and durability; his brutal stiff-arm and ability to finish runs aggressively were on display all season.
In addition, 544 of his 793 yards were gained after contact. Further, Wells avoided/broke 24 tackles while only carrying the ball 176 times (league lead was 50 on 315 carries by Adrian Peterson). Only Ronnie Brown and Michael Turner broke/avoided more tackles with less than 200 carries.
Wells added a viable third and short presence in a backfield that desperately needed someone that could fall forward for at least three yards when needed; Wells does that. Also, Beanie has big play potential, which he exhibited on a 42-yard run against the Packers in the Wild Card round. Finally, he gives the Cardinals hope for a productive and balanced offense in 2010.
Wells, however, did have some fumbling issues (4 fumbles) this past season, he should get that straightened out. Also, Wells needs considerable work on his pass blocking. There’s time; it’s easy to forget that he was only a rookie. All signs indicate that Wells is working harder than he ever has in his already impressive though young career. Wells has recently stated “I want to be one of the top backs in the NFL this year.” If Wells accomplishes that goal, Leinart should feel much less pressure.