This preseason was supposed to be a stepping stone for second-year RB LaRod Stephens-Howling. The coaching staff has been praising him almost daily and making their intentions to get him more involved in the offense well known. However, even with the rib injury of Beanie Wells, Stephens-Howling saw very little time in the backfield against the Houston Texans.
It's only the first game of the preseason, so there's no reason to panic for Stephens-Howling but it was strange to see him used so sparingly. Stephens-Howling didn't receive a carry or catch a pass. Even rookie free agent Alfonso Smith received a carry, which happened to result in a touchdown. Stephens-Howling was in on kick returns but his 61 return yards were the extent of his contributions.
Because there was no gameplan, it may have been difficult to get Stephens-Howling touches. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has talked about designing plays for him and may not want to give those looks away in the preseason. Given how quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson struggled at times, inserting Stephens-Howling for a simple screen pass would have made sense. Arizona did run a few screens but Jason Wright was on the receiving end of those particular plays.
As more of the Cardinals' offensive scheme becomes incorporated into the gameplan, look for Stephens-Howling's role to increase. He's a multitalented running back capable of producing in the running game and through the air. As Tim Hightower and Wells are rested in anticipation of the regular season, Stephens-Howling will certainly get his fair share of chances over the next three weeks.
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