We've talked about Edgerrin James a couple of times this off season and examined the depth, or lack there of, behind him. While it seems pretty clear that Edge will end his career with Hall of Fame numbers, what isn't clear is what kind of season the Cardinals can expect from him in 2008. On one hand, there are signs that 2008 will be his best season in Arizona including continuity along the offensive line and in the coaching staff but on the other hand he's approaching what some consider brick wall that every running back eventually runs into. We all know that Edge has been great at turning a 2 yard gain into a 5 or 6 yard gain but he really struggles at turning a 10 yard gain into 30 yard run, but is this the year that he can' t do either? We'll only know for sure in 6 months but for now will ask the question, will age finally catch up with Edgerrin James?
Why James will hit the wall in 2008: He's got two things working against him, age and workload. Edge enters the 2008 season not only knocking on the door of 30 years old (Aug 1st) but he's an old 30 in 'running back years.' He's not only the active career leader in rushing attempts (by nearly 400 carries), but also ranked second among active running backs in terms of receptions. His 2,849 career rushing attempts is second only to Emmitt Smith in terms of attempts at the age of 30. It's hard to believe that Edge has so many more miles on his legs than some backs who are considered washed-up based on overuse, including Warrick Dunn (366 less), Shaun Alexander (673 less), Ahman Green (908 less), and Rudi Johnson (1408 less). To make matters worse, there is no clear #2 running back in sight, unless you count new fan favorite Tim Hightower. If the Cardinals ground game is going to take flight (ugh another bad play on words) they'll have to depend on the 30 year old legs of #32 for another 300-ish carries and around 40 receptions.
Why James is ready for his best season in the desert: When Edgerrin James
came to Arizona, he was entering one of the worst situations in the league. The Cardinals hadn't had a 1,000 yard rusher since 1988 (Adrian Murrell) and was entering the final season of a failed Dennis Green regime. James would finish the first season with his worst ever rushing average and rushing yardage over a full season. He bounced back slightly in 2007 with a revamped offensive line and completely new coaching staff. With the offensive line returning intact for a second season and with a full season for everyone to learn Todd Haley's offense, Edge should finally be able to enter the season without the deck stacked against him. A potent passing attack and improving offensive should be able to open up holes that Edge hasn't seen since he left Indianapolis. If the Cardinals can get a #2 back to step up and take some pressure and carries off of Edge's workload, he could be in line for his best season in Arizona.
Even if Edge has a great season, he's not going to lead the league in rushing yards or touchdowns or yards per carry, but the Cardinals don't need that to be successful. They need Edgerrin consistently be productive and take some pressure off the passing game and Matt Leinart. The best case scenerio, in my mind, is for Edge to get around 300 carries while Hightower takes over the short yardage and goal-line carries. That would lighten the load on James and open him up to be fresher when the Cardinals need him. We'll work on community projections as it gets closer to training camp, but for now the question is of the over/under variety. Will James' rushing yardage be over or under his 2007 totals (1,222)? Do you have faith that he's got enough in the tank for another good year or two and how much will a solid complimentary back help him extend his career?