When the Arizona Cardinals used their first round pick (31st overall) in this year's draft to select Chris Wells out of Ohio State most of the national media immediately penciled him into the starting lineup and relegated Tim Hightower to a backup/goal line role. The Cardinals coaching staff wasn't so quick with shuffling the depth chart and gimpy ankle has really shut down any talks of Beanie winning the starting tail back job, but Ken Whisenhunt might have left the door open with some comments following his team's loss to the Packers. Earlier this week, still fuming from their pathetic performance, Whisenhunt was talking about Wells and said.....
"Beanie was anxious to get in there because he sees the opportunity to start or to play a lot slipping away."
Now that's certainly not a definitive statement either way but you could imply that the starting job hasn't completely "slipped away" from Beanie yet. While most expect Hightower to start the season opener against the Niners, Whiz did go on to say that we can't rule anything out.....
"We are always going to have competitions at the positions and the best players will play," Whisenhunt said. "I wouldn't expect Beanie to start with the preseason Tim has had. You never want to rule anything out, but I am pleased with what Hightower has done."
Again, nothing definitive but it's worth noting that Whisenhunt won't come out and say something like, "Tim Hightower is our starting running back" or at least "Tim Hightower will be our starting running back when the take the field on September 13th."
I think there is very little doubt that Hightower will open the season as the starter but it'll be interesting to see how carries are divided and which back plays on certain downs. Hightower is the better option on third downs because of his ability catching the ball and his experience as Kurt Warner's personal protector so it might make sense to use Wells as the regular back and Hightower more as the back in passing formations. It'll also be interesting to see who receives the bulk of carries in short yardage and goal line situations considering that both have the size and power to excel in those situations. Yet another option is a simple rotation in which one back plays every other series or every third series with Jason Wright and LaRod Stephens-Howling stepping in as the third down backs.
Needless to say the Cardinals have some options at running back and for now, it's a good problem to have. The 'shared' workload should keep both back fresh and hopefully healthy and that alone is reason enough to be encouraged. How would you manage the playing time between Hightower and Wells? Who's your goal line back?