By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir
20 questions in 20 days
As we count down to the first game of the Redskins’ season, Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler are going to be looking at some of the big questions facing the team and attempting to look into their crystal balls and answer them.
Question 10: How much can Tim Hightower contribute this year?
The background: Hightower was the Redskins’ leading rusher through the first five games of the season. Then, a torn ACL knocked him out for the season. Almost 11 months later, he is still struggling to get back to 100 percent. After getting five carries against the Colts in his first action of the preseason, he was still too sore to see even token action against the Bucs last night.
Tandler: It’s easy to say that Hightower “should” be fully recovered from his injury but different players recover from different injuries at different rates. A torn ACL has an 8-12 month rehab time and it looks like Hightower will go more towards the longer time frame. The question is if he can play while he continues to heal. I think it’s going to be difficult. We will not see the Hightower we saw early last season until November or December this year, if at all. He will contribute some plays and maybe even some games here and there but it says here that he will end up with fewer rushing yards in 2012 than Evan Royster, Roy Helu Jr., and Alfred Morris, the other three running backs likely to be on the roster.
El-Bashir: Hightower is definitely still recovering, and some days are better than others judging from his post-practice limp, which can be quite pronounced. There is, however, some hope that the 26-year-old can contribute as he gets back up to speed. And it came in the second quarter of Saturday’s preseason game against Colts. Facing a third down and two, Hightower took the handoff from Robert Griffin III, made a hard cut, then showed speed and agility as he sprinted down the sideline for an 18-yard gain. Does that mean he’s ready to be the Redskins' featured back? Even if Hightower was 100-percent healthy, Coach Mike Shanahan has hinted that he intends to use a running-back-by-committee system this season. Given the injury and increased competition for carries, I think a realistic expectation for Hightower this season is 400-500 yards rushing, 150 yards receiving and a total of five touchdowns.
20 questions in 20 days
Jammal Brown play this year?
#19 Aug.21—Will Chris Cooley make the team?
#18 Aug. 22—Can Brandon Meriweather get he job done at safety?
#17 Aug. 23—Is Garçon a No. 1 receiver?
#16 Aug. 24—Can Trent Williams go from good to great?
#15 Aug. 25—Can DeAngelo Hall be a defensive playmaker?
#14 Aug. 26—Can Santana Moss regain his old form?
#13 Aug. 27—Can Orakpo post 15 sacks?
#12 Aug. 28—Will Leonard Hankerson break out?
#11 Yesterday—Can the Redskins flip their turnover ratio?
#10 Today—How much can Hightower contribute this year?
#9 Tomorrow—Was making Billy Cundiff the kicker a good move?