The knock on Beanie Wells coming out of Ohio State was that he too often shied away from contact.
"Wells is a big back, but he does not have great toughness," Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. said after the Arizona Cardinals made Wells the 31st player chosen in the 2009 draft. "There's a clip you'll see against Michigan where he is 20 yards downfield and one-on-one against a back and he steps out of bounds. Not encouraging."
Wells put to rest some of those concerns for stretches during his rookie season, but a disappointing 2010 season revived perceptions. Now that Wells is back to running over defenders and providing a physical presence to the Cardinals' ground game, what should we make of the apparent inconsistencies?
"I don’t think anything has changed," Wells told the Doug & Wolf Show on Sports 620 KTAR in Phoenix. "If you go back to last year at the end of last year, it was one of those years where I had the knee injury all year. It kind of lingered. Right now, I think you guys are just seeing a healthy me. I think it is more comparable to how I ran my rookie year to how I am running now. I feel similar."
That makes sense. Wells did suffer a preseason knee injury in 2010, undergoing surgery.
There's no question Wells is running with greater authority and welcoming contact so far this season. He has missed one game to injury, reinforcing concerns about his durability, but he carried 27 times for 138 yards and three touchdowns against the New York Giants in his first game back. Those were career-high numbers.
The chart, based on date provided by Hank Gargiulo of ESPN Stats & Information, shows Wells' rushing yardage by down and the Cardinals' offensive personnel. He has gained 70.7 percent of his yardage on first down and 65.2 percent of that first-down yardage from two-receiver personnel, which covers most base offense in the NFL. Wells is, in other words, giving the Cardinals old-fashioned production on the ground.