Breaking onto the scene this season is rookie seventh-round pick LaRod Stephens-Howling. Not many experts expected much from him, but Stephens-Howling has been facing doubters throughout his career. His size (5’7", 180) has fueled the uncertainty regarding his ability to play in the NFL. Last week however, he showed that the doubters may be on the verge of eating their words.
Stephens-Howling is currently listed on the depth chart being Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells. Being stuck behind quality backs is nothing new to the rookie. Following his sophomore year at Pittsburg, a running back by the name of LeSean McCoy arrived. In spite of being forced to the bench, he never complained and earned a reputation as the consummate team player.
The largest concern for Stephens-Howling is his ability to stay healthy. His first two seasons of college football were plagued by injuries and it wasn’t until he began sharing time with McCoy, that he began to reach his true potential. His biggest weapon in college was his speed, and it was undoubtedly what caught the eye of the Cardinals’ scouts.
After being drafted in the final round of the NFL draft, within shouting distance of the infamous “Mr. Irrelevant”, Stephens-Howling quickly displayed his prowess as a special teams threat. His ability to get down the field and make tackles has provided him with 14 total tackles in the first 11 games. He also returns kicks for the Cardinals, posting a solid 25.0 yards per return and a touchdown this season.
Last week he displayed his exceptional punt coverage abilities by downing three punts inside the five yard line. His special teams contribution peaked when he ran back a kickoff 99 yards for a Cardinals touchdown. After gaining a full head of steam on the run, Stephens-Howling gave fans the illusion that the Titans players were moving in slow motion.
Having a kick returner in the mold of Darren Sproles is a lethal weapon that the Cardinals will utilize to help support the passing game. If he can maintain his humble attitude and continue to thrive as a key component on special teams, Stephens-Howling will be electrifying the Cardinals faithful for many seasons to come. With success stories like Maurice Jones-Drew and Sproles, Stephens-Howling could be just another supporting argument in the case for the little guys.
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