September 7, 2011
By Brian Spencer
Foreskins head coach Mike Shanahan has a long, well-documented history of turning most any running back he touches into a 1,000-yard rusher. In his first season with the ‘Skins, though, even he couldn’t polish the turds that were Clinton Portis, Ryan Torain, and Keiland Williams into anything remotely resembling a respectable rushing attack: only the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals averaged less than the team’s 91.3 rushing yards/per last season.
Somewhat ironic, then, that Shanahan turns to Tim Hightower, who helped “lead the charge” for the Cards’ league-worst rushing attack last season, as the guy to get things back on track. A fourth-year back out of Richmond, Hightower was last seen stumbling his way to 736 yards rushing and fumbling the ball away four times in 15 timeshare appearances with Beanie Wells. Save for an anamolous burst in Week 14 against the ghastly Denver Broncos (18 carries, 148 yards, 2 TDs), his play was as uninspired as the last three seasons of NBC’s The Office (okay, that’s not fair–he wasn’t that bad).
The limp two-headed penis of Wells and Hightower was thankfully circumcised in the offseason, however, and both have been rewarded for their sub-acceptable efforts with full-time starting gigs… and it wouldn’t be shocking if both flourished with 1,000-yard seasons. Hightower, perhaps more than any starting back, may benefit most from a “right place, right time” situation in Washington, whose rushing philosophy is well-suited to Hightower’s not inconsiderable talents as a cut-and-go runner. He certainly looked the part of stud in limited preseason action, averaging 6.8 YPC while scoring twice, which was enough to titillate fantasy nation and muscle his way into legitimate RB3 and WR/RB flex territory.
Are we going overboard here, though, in expecting much more than what we’ve already seen in three middling campaigns in Arizona, or will a change of scenery–and scheme–truly do the trick?
Hightower’s career has been solidly mediocre so far. He’s topped 100 yards rushing just four times in 47 games, sports a combined 3.9 YPC, and has lost 8 fumbles in the past two seasons. It’s not like he’s joining a high-octane offense in Washington with complimentary parts surrounding him, either. Sexy Rexy Grossman (or John Beck, for that matter) and his WR cast of Ughs and I Can’t Looks strike fear into nobody but the Redskins marketing department, so Hightower will likely see stacked boxes early and often.
If the fumbles continue, he’ll quickly find his way into Shanahan’s doghouse and, likely, back onto fantasy waivers before too long. Don’t go running to bet on his production just yet, but I’m tentatively bullish on his chances to at least do some damage over the ‘Skins first seven games, a stretch which includes matchups against a number of questionable rush defenses (Carolina, Buffalo, New York Giants, St. Louis… Arizona). If he does post big numbers, consider selling high after the Buffalo game in Week 8, after which the schedule gets considerably tougher, at least on preseason paper.
As the defending champ in both of my fantasy leagues (ahem), I’m heading into one season with Hightower penciled into my W/R flex slot–and, on the same team, Wells in my RB2 slot. I didn’t plan it that way, but am now one owner who’s hoping the circumcision was a success.
Tim Hightower Photo Credit: Icon SMI