Tim Hightower was a productive back for three seasons in Arizona before the Redskins acquired him in July, though he never earned the distinction of “primary ballcarrier.” As such, most Redskins fans initially envisioned him as third-down back, a complementary piece, a role player in Shanny’s blue-collar offense.
That may very well end up being the case, but my expectations regarding his contribution in 2011 are only rising by the day. Here are some reasons:
- He’s a veteran. Shanny likes vets.
- He’s already been productive. Last year he averaged a gaudy 4.8 yards per carry. He’s averaged almost eight touchdowns per season over his career.
- He’s dynamic. I’d argue he instantly became our “hardest” runner (very important for short-yardage), our best receiver out of the backfield, and our best blitz picker-upper. Anyone disagree? Those are three very important skills.
- He’s durable. Played in 16 games in each of his first three seasons, starting 16 in ‘09 and 13 in ‘10.
- He’s already showing well in practice. The zone-blocking scheme seems to suit him, as he waits patiently for holes and possesses the burst to dart through them at the line of scrimmage. He also describes being energized by his homecoming—he’s originally from Alexandria and attended the University of Richmond.
Hightower’s biggest weakness is ball security; he’s a bit of a fumbler, with five in each of the past two seasons. That’s a bad pattern. Shanny will demand better discipline and the distribution of playing time will hinge on it. But fumbling is often a correctable problem, especially for avid students of the game, and there is hope he will improve in that area.
My man-crush on Ryan Torain (Hightower’s main competition for the starting job, at least in the short-term) has waned a little with his serial injuries. As “Gravy” sits for another week with two screws in his broken wrist, Hightower’s familiarity with the First Team will only grow. Promising rookies Roy Helu and Evan Royster may eventually develop into feature backs in their own right—in fact I love Helu and think he could start by mid-season—but not yet; not after such an abbreviated offseason.
Although much will change over the next month, today’s first official depth chart supports my strong suspicion: Tim Hightower will be your starting running back against the Giants in Week 1.