To the surprise of no one, including the rest of the Cardinals’ running backs themselves – “I knew they’d bring in a veteran,” Alfonso Smith said – Chester Taylor was added to the roster Monday.
What Taylor’s impact will be on the field will have to be determined. It doesn’t hurt to have a running back in the locker room who has been around, however, given that the most experience otherwise at the position is that Beanie Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling are entering their third NFL season.
“I don’t think we have to,” Wells said, “but it’s always a good thing to bring someone in who knows.”
That’s the idea for now. Taylor knows how to be a reserve, since he has been one practically his entire decade in the NFL for Baltimore, Minnesota and Chicago. He knows how to run, how to catch, how to pass block.
He also knows the makeup within his new meeting room.
“You try to being veteran leadership and try to help them through the season,” Taylor said. “I just want to bring what I can.”
Taylor did not practice Monday, missing while he signed his contract and got his physical. Coach Ken Whisenhunt called Taylor “a good fit.” Some move at the position was expected from the time rookie Ryan Williams ruptured his patella tendon in the second preseason game. Wells is still expected to be the workhorse carrying the ball, which is what he has been hoping for since he arrived in the league.
Even before Williams was hurt, Wells said he felt he would have that role. It isn’t going to change with Taylor’s arrival.
“I can’t wait until Sunday,” Wells said. “I wanted to be in this position, I’m blessed to be in this position, and I have been working to be in this position. I am ready.”
How Taylor fits into the Cards’ offense will be story going forward. Whisenhunt said he can do pretty much anything needed – his versatility was one of his attractive traits, especially an ability to pass protect. LaRod Stephens-Howling has shown playmaking ability in preseason and even before, however, and there will be an effort to get Stephens-Howling chances with the football.
Whisenhunt said the Cards will “integrate him in and figure that out.” Smith could still be active on game days, although his primary role for now will likely be on special teams. Smith would have liked the idea of being the third back, but considering he wasn’t in the league at this time last year and has mostly been on the practice squad, “as long as I am going forward” Smith said he is OK.
Taylor just wanted to move on from Chicago, where he has signed a four-year contract before last season before being cut over the weekend. Taylor averaged just 2.4 yards a carry last season and had just 20 receptions, nowhere near the statistics he or the Bears expected.
“It’s always frustrating,” Taylor said. “I always feel I could do more for the team. I just felt I wasn’t able to use my ability I knew I had last year. Hopefully I can do it this year.”
Tight end Todd Heap played with Taylor with the Ravens, endorsing Taylor’s ability to catch the ball and, more importantly, set a good example as a hard worker in practice.
“Obviously they will be helping him out early, getting him up to speed, but there are always things a veteran like Chester can bring,” Heap said.
Given the relatively short shelf-life of an NFL player, guys like Wells and Stephens-Howling have already learned a lot in their NFL careers. In some ways, the intense learning makes NFL years like dog years. Had Williams stayed healthy, the Cards wouldn’t have a veteran back right now.
After losing Jason Wright to retirement and Tim Hightower to a trade, however, some extra life experience isn’t a bad thing.
“I am sure Chester has a thing or two to show all of us in the running back room,” Wells said. “I think it’ll be good for us, and he is a productive back too.
“You can say it’s like dog years,” Wells added with a chuckle, “and he’s played 10 of them.”