For the first time this season the Arizona Cardinals had JJ Arrington active against the Bills and while his snaps were limited, he did make a couple of decent plays. Tim Castille was the active-roster casualty and Coach Whisenhunt said that the move was made primarily to keep Steve Breaston from having to return kicks while he filled in for the injured Anquan Boldin. While it's possible that both Arrington and Castille could be active on game days, it would be unlikely because there's not much reason to have five runningbacks/fullbacks for a given game. So who is the better option?
The Case for Tim Castille: Castille's a versatile player who can play fullback or running back and the coaching staff even likes to split him out wide in spread formations. He's a tough runner who could be used in short yardage or goal line situations, if Hightower were to go down, and he's a capable reciever out of the backfield. Castille, a former college running back, isn't the pure fullback that Terrelle Smith is but his blocking has improved and there was some thought during training camp that Castille would win the starting job. Castille also contributes on coverage units where he's logged three tackles in four games. Overall, Castille is what you're looking for in a backup player because he can play multiple positions and has a diverse skill set.
The Case Against Castille: While Castille is capable of doing many things well, he's doesn't do any one thing particulary great. If the Cardinals are looking for a blocker, Terrelle Smith is a better option. If they're looking for a guy to convert around the goal line or in short yardage situations, Hightower is the better option. If they're looking for a reciever out of the backfield, Hightower and Edge are better options. Another thing working against Castille is that the Cardinals don't use a fullback very much outside of goal line situations. So while Castille is versatile, he doesn't really excel at any one thing.
The Case for JJ Arrington: Arrington's been a big disapointment since he was drafted four years ago, there's no denying that. But he still brings something to the table that no other running back on the roster has on their resume: speed. His ability to run through contact has always been questioned but he looked much better in the preseason when he broke multiple long runs and scored a couple of touchdowns. He's also a legit threat out of the backfield and he actually led the running backs in receptions last year with 29. Arrington's also the team's best kick returner, although you wouldn't have been able to tell by last week's performance, and having him back there also allows Steve Breaston to focus on punt returns and receiving.
The Case Against JJ Arrington: If you read the paragraph above, you might be able to guess what works against JJ, he's pretty much a one-trick-pony. He's got outstanding, game changing speed but that's about the only area that he's an upgrade over anyone on the roster. He's also weak runner and he's got the tendency to dance too much in the backfield instead of finding a hole cutting up field. I know there's also a certain segment of Cardinals fans that have already given up on Arrington ever being a legit NFL player, much less a legit running back, and they're just counting down the days until his contract expires at the end of the season.
My Take: It's possible that I've played too much Madden over the years, but I'm a guy who's loves speed. Truly game breaking speed can change the outcome of a game in the blink of an eye and that's what JJ Arrington possesses. I really like Castille's versatility but he doesn't upgrade any area of the roster other than depth. Depth is very important on a roster, so I'm not discounting his value, but if we're talking about one game, I'd rather have JJ. He's the best kick returner and he adds something to the backfield that Edge and Hightower can't.
Thoughts? Agree/Disagree? Who would you rather see active? Did Arrington look like an improved player on Sunday or were his third down conversions just fluke plays?