Can the Cards outrun the rest of the West?

Edgerrin James managed another 1,200-yard year behind Russ Grimm's improving O-line. However, Edge is beginning to show his advancing age. With Marcel Shipp and J.J. Arrington failing to provide viable backup, this unit may be in trouble.'s James Jones looks at how Arizona shapes up against the rest of the West.

Edgerrin James will be the starting running back when Arizona opens the season on Sept. 7, but he will have his hands full in training camp as he tries once again to separate himself from the flock.

James has been a stalwart out of the backfield for the majority of his career; however, he is coming into his 10th season and has not been as reliable since coming to the desert by way of Indianapolis. His first season in Arizona saw him post 1,154 rushing yards with only three touchdowns. Last season wasn't much better as he finished with 1,222 rushing yards on 324 carries.

These numbers appear solid on the surface, but when his averages of 3.4 and 3.8 yards, respectively, are taken into account they paint a much different picture. James should be counted on to reach the 1,000-yard plateau once again in 2008 but his best days are clearly behind him.

Marcel Shipp has been relegated to spot duty for most of his career in Arizona and that is not likely to change in 2008. He has always been good about knowing his role on the team and not rocking the boat when it comes to playing time.

RB Tim Hightower
AP Photo

The Cardinals had high hopes for J.J. Arrington when they selected him out of Cal with the 44th overall pick in the 2005 draft. But as of now, he has not lived up to the lofty expectations that were set for him upon entering the league.

Fifth-round pick Tim Hightower out of Richmond could certainly breed some competition in training camp this summer. He could be the heir apparent to James, but that transition is at least a year away.

At fullback, Arizona boasts Terrelle Smith, Tim Castille and newly signed rookie free agent, Dionte Johnson. Having not used a draft pick on this position, it would appear that coach Ken Whisenhunt is content with allowing Smith and Castille to split time once again.

Taking a backseat in the NFC West?

With some very productive backfields in the NFC West, the Cardinals might find themselves at the back the line this season compared to their division rivals.

Seattle: The Seahawks went out and signed former Dallas Cowboy Julius Jones and journeyman T.J. Duckett, allowing for the release of soft-running Shaun Alexander. Jones should put up some impressive numbers this season and Duckett provides raw power that will be welcomed in Seattle.

San Francisco: Frank Gore didn't have an All-Pro season in 2007; however, he still managed to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the second year in a row behind a very suspect offensive line. The 49ers allowed Maurice Hicks to leave in free agency but then went and nabbed their own gem in former Carolina Panther DeShaun Foster, who should be a nice change-of-pace back in spelling Gore.

St. Louis: Steven Jackson, while not producing his usual statistical domination last season, should never be counted out when it comes to naming the league's top running backs. He has very little in the form of good backs behind him, with Travis Minor and Antonio Pittman fighting him for playing time.

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