Positional Analysis: Running Backs

After losing Edgerrin James and J.J. Arrington this offseason, the Cardinals have revamped their backfield with additions via the draft and free agency. Arizona hopes that first-round pick Chris Wells will form a dynamic duo with Tim Hightower. Veteran Jason Wright and rookie LaRod Stephens-Howling will compete for the No. 3 spot. AZRedReport.com's Andy Bishop examines the situation.

One thing Cardinals' fans can count on annually is a dismal rushing attack. From 2005-2008, Arizona ranked no better than 29th in the league in rushing yards. They finished dead last in 2008. The Cardinals addressed this concern by drafting first-rounder Chris Wells, a complete back with all the tools for success in the NFL.

Wells figures to back up second-year player Tim Hightower, who performed well as a rookie in 2008. Hightower led Arizona's rushers with 10 touchdowns, and had 399 rushing yards. He is a north-to-south runner who shines during goal-line situations. Think of Dallas's Marion Barber, just less explosive. Hightower also emerged as a suitable pass-catcher out of the backfield, hauling in 34 receptions for 237 yards.

Even though Wells won't begin as the starter, the Cardinals will expect him to make an immediate contribution. Wells is more versatile and elusive than Hightower. He will split carries with Hightower, and may take over the starting role as long as he can stay healthy.

The Cardinals would like Wells to improve his pass catching skills coming into the season. He managed just 15 career receptions during his three years at Ohio State.

Arizona added free agent Jason Wright to the mix in 2009, seemingly to assume J.J. Arrington's role. Wright spent his first season in Atlanta and has played for Cleveland the last four years. He has played sparingly, working mainly as a third-down back. In his five-year career, he has 159 carries for 588 yards and 55 receptions for 486 yards. Wright will try to outduel rookie seventh-round pick LaRod Stephens-Howling for No. 3 position on the depth chart.

Stephens-Howling is a small, quick back who is more of situational player. With players ahead of him, Stephens-Howling's best chance to contribute in the backfield is as a third down back. In all likelihood, he will find his niche in the return game on special teams.


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