Cardinals Running To Change

The Arizona Cardinals high-flying offense will be tested this year with QB Matt Leinart leading the huddle, and the Cardinals improving ground game may need to pick up the slack. AZRedReport.com examines where the ground game has been, where it stands and where it's headed.

The Ghost of Backs Past & Present

When the Arizona Cardinals drafted unknown running back Tim Hightower in the 2008 draft, there was a collective, "huh?"

With the aging (for a back) Edgerrin James in the No. 1 role, the Cardinals were expected to nab one of the more popular backs. Specifically, Chris Johnson. He appeared to be highest on the Cardinals radar, as they hoped to grab him in the second round. The Titans swooped Johnson up in the first round, which has paid dividends for Tennessee thus far.

The Cardinals choice wasn't too shabby either, and Cardinals fans got to know Hightower quickly. He appeared in all regular season games his rookie season, including four playoff contests. He also set a franchise rookie record with 10 rushing TDs and led the team and tied for the lead among NFL rookies.

Enter the 2009 offseason. With James inching out of the picture, the Cardinals focused on the future of the group and selected Beanie Wells with their No. 1 pick. Wells quickly displayed his speed and power, earning him plenty of playing time throughout his rookie season all leading to nearly 800 regular-season yards and seven TDs.

Wells is expected to overthrow Hightower in the battle for the primary ball carrier role. Currently, Hightower is hanging on to the gloried No.l role, but according to Whisenhunt, there is still a lot of time before the Cardinals have to make any starting decisions have been made yet.

The Ghost of Future Backs

The additions of two key contributors will help to add a new dimension to the run game. With Alan Faneca in the mix, the improved run blocking will aid in the Cardinals ability to move the ball.

The addition of running backs coach Tommie Robinson, who made a name for himself in the college ranks, eleviated the run game as a task from Russ Grimm. The Cardinals decision to hire a running back-specific coach shows the commitment to that group.

One of Robinson's key tasks will be improving ball security and finding a good mix of Wells, Hightower and LaRod Stephens-Howling.

An improved ground game will be an insurance policy for the Cardinals who are banking on Matt Leinart who has had a lackluster NFL career so far.


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