Arizona Cardinals Running Back Situation Better Than In Years Past

It's no secret that the Arizona Cardinals offense will be headlined by a new-found rushing attack in 2010. Kurt Warner is enjoying retirement in Arizona and will spend next season watching his former team on television. That means that head coach Ken Whisenhunt will rely on backs Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower to lead the charge for the offense.

The Cardinals have consistently featured a high-octane passing offense in the years that Warner was at the helm. Now with him gone, the young running backs will need to keep the gas pressed and the wheels moving. The duo of Wells and Hightower, or "Beantower" as some of you may call it, will see a significantly greater amount of reps then they did last season.

Beanie Wells is coming off a sub-par rookie season, in which he averaged 4.5 yards per carry. He also led the team in rushing yards and steam-rolled many of the 2009 opponents. Wells did run into some road blocks along the way. He missed offseason training to finish school, and on his first day of training camp, he was carted off the field with an injured ankle. Also throw in the fumbles throughout the season and it's safe to say that Wells' rookie season was limited.

Tim Hightower will enter his third season in the NFL and already has the poise and presense of a 10-year veteran. He's coming of his best year yardage-wise, and will do everything in his power to handle the bulk of the carries.

"We're both competitive," says Hightower. "We joke all the time about how we hate being taken off the field, I don't care if it's first down, goal line or third down, I hate being taken off the field. I want to be an every-down back. I grew up watching Walter Payton. I'm just competitive like that. Beanie is the same way. He loves making plays. We kind of feed off of that. At some point we both know we're going to be taken out of the game, but we're doing everything we can to make it hard on them to take us out." - Sports Illustrated

Hightower too, had problems putting the ball on the field last season and missed a significant amount of time as a result. Although Wells received the majority of the carries last season, Hightower started every game because of his superior blocking and receiving skills. With a little practice securing the ball better, both young backs can make a drastic improvement from 2009.

After the jump I'll list the Cardinals' running back duos since 2000...

Arizona Cardinals RB Duos Since 2000

Year RBs Yards TD YPC
2000 Michael Pittman
Thomas Jones
1,092 6 3.6
2001 Michael Pittman
Thomas Jones
1,226 10 3.4
2002 Marcel Shipp
Thomas Jones
1,345 8 4.0
2003 Marcel Shipp
Emitt Smith
1,086 2 3.2
2004 Emitt Smith
Troy Hambrick
1,220 10 4.0
2005 Marcel Shipp
J.J. Arrington
821 2 3.1
2006 Edgerrin James
J.J. Arrington
1,200 10 2.9
2007 Edgerrin James
J.J. Arrington
1,300 7 3.4
2008 Edgerrin James
Tim Hightower
913 13 3.4
2009 Beanie Wells
Tim Hightower
1,391 15 4.4
2010 Beanie Wells
Tim Hightower
? ? ?

One thing we rarely talk about around here is the success the Cardinals experienced rushing the football last season. Clearly Wells and Hightower held the edge over every other duo since 2000 - they produced the most yards, touchdowns, and the highest yards per carry average.

As you can see, the Cardinals have been abysmal at rushing the football for the last decade, and much of that can be blamed on poor coaching, blocking, and overall personnel. The Cardinals have an opportunity to shatter every stat from the past ten years and establish themselves as the best running back duo the team has every seen. Call it a bold statement but before Wells and Hightower arrived, the Cardinals running backs were either has-beens or bench warmers.

At nearly 1,400 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns, call me a believer that the Cardinals rushing game could be in the top ten next year. If they manage to make it that far, it will make life for quarterback Matt Leinart much more bearable.

The 2010 group can erase every Cardinal fans encrusted memory of the terrible rushing football that they witnessed in the 2000's. With the competitive camp that Whisenhunt is running, and the improvement of Wells and Hightower, the Cardinals can start the new decade on a positive note.

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