NFC West: Marcus Washington

Cardinals rookie Hightower making mark

September, 25, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando


The Cardinals and Jets will field two of the older offensive backfields even beyond the quarterback position when the teams face off in Week 4.

Arizona's Edgerrin James and New York's Thomas Jones are 30. Jets fullback Tony Richardson is 36. Don't be surprised if Cardinals rookie running back Tim Hightower looks even faster than usual. He turned 22 in May and gives Arizona a more dynamic alternative to James' grind-it-out approach.

The fifth-round draft choice from Richmond is looking like the future starter, but the Cardinals aren't waiting to use him. Hightower rushed five times for 23 yards against the Redskins in Week 3. He also caught three passes for 38 yards. The Cardinals targeted Hightower as a runner or receiver on six of their 11 third-down plays, converting twice. Overall, the Cardinals handed off or threw toward Hightower 11 times in 56 plays, or 19.6 percent of the time.

James averaged better than 5 yards a carry against the Redskins, but the Cardinals are among only four teams without a running play of at least 20 yards this season (the Jets are another). James remains the established runner between the tackles. Hightower provides more big-play potential.

I've isolated each Week 3 play featuring Hightower, providing detailed notes on each in an effort to better understand how the Cardinals are using their promising rookie runner:

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