Battle for Starting Running Back Brewing for the Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals knew heading into this year's draft that Edgerrin James was closer to the end of his career than the beginning. They knew that they had to add another back to the stable and they preferred one with some game changing speed. They didn't get exactly what they wanted in April's draft but they did select a back who ran with authority and played faster than the stopwatch would suggest. Even though many so-called draft experts and fans had never heard of Tim Hightower, of tiny Richmond College, the coaching staff was ecstatic after the selection in the fifth round. They immediately started comparing him to Marion Barber and the praise for the rookie hasn't stopped since. He was impressive during camp, preseason and throughout the first seven games of the season. Everyone seems to be excited about what the rookie brings to offense, well almost everyone.

Edge_vs

Complete breakdown and analysis after the jump......

There have always been questions about whether Edgerrin James was more concerned with his personal legacy than with his teams success, and the questions have gotten louder since he came to the desert. Last week reports started to surface that Edgerrin James wasn't so happy with his role, or to be more specific his lack of a role, in the offense:

"I don't want to just be on a team; I like to play," he said. "If I'm not playing, it's not serving a purpose. What purpose is it serving? I don't want to feel like I'm selfish but you want to play......Hey, I still got years in me, I know that. I can still play some ball. I ain't worried."

When you're 30 years old, averaging 3.5 yards per carry and there's a promising rookie breathing down your neck, those are the kind of quotes that you get sometimes. Edge didn't fair much better in his first game out of the bye though with just 17 yards on seven carries, a fumble and a drop on what looked like a well set-up screen. Hightower had a poor statistical game also (3 yards on 6 carries) but he had a couple of productive carries that resulted in a first down and a touchdown when it looked like he'd be dropped for a loss. That naturally led to Ken Whisenhunt being asked in a press conference, for the first time, if he would consider starting Tim Hightower over Edge. Whiz, who has always championed competition, didn't completely shoot down the idea saying:

"I think we have shown we will play the players we feel give us the best chance to win," Whisenhunt said. "We did that with the quarterback, we did that with the linebacker, we’ve done it with the offensive line. At the point we feel Tim gives us the best chance to win, then absolutely (he would start).

That doesn't mean that Hightower is slated to start this Sunday, but it's something to keep an eye on and certainly something that Edge will take personally. Whiz also said that they didn't want to give Hightower "too much" right now so it's unlikely that any major shift would be made in the near future. However the running back carries end up being split, one thing is painfully obvious, something needs to be done about the league's 29th ranked rushing attack.

While I think we all understand what Edge brings to a team and how he helps an offense in ways that don't necessarily show up in the boxscore, it's also obvious that he's not a franchise back anymore. Opposing defenses don't fear the running game or his ability to hurt them. Can Hightower strike fear into a defense? We honestly don't know at this point. I would argue though that if he received a majority of the carries, he would outperform Edge. They've both got great vision but Hightower has an explosive burst, that allows him to get through, a hole that Edge simply doesn't have anymore. I'm not sure that they can bench Edge but I do think they can make sure that Hightower receives at least half of the workload (and not just on the goal line or short yardage) Thoughts? Should Hightower start? Should they let Edge continue to start but give Hightower more carries?

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