Tim Hightower is back with the Redskins. Now what?
Although we haven’t heard anything yet, it seems unlikely that he will be able to participate in the upcoming OTA’s and minicamp. He suffered his torn ACL against the Panthers on Oct. 23 last year. That was seven months ago and the injury usually requires at least nine months of rehab.
If he can recover fully from the knee injury the Redskins would be wise to define a role for him and stick to it whenever possible. And the workhorse running back, which is what they tried to make him into last year, is not a role for which he is well suited.
In his first two games with the Redskins last year Hightower carried 45 times. Prior to that the most carries he had in two consecutive games in his career was 35, when he was a rookie with the Cardinals in 2008. His carries were limited over the next few games and he did not play in the Week 5 game against the Eagles with a shoulder injury. The next week he was well on his way to another heavy workload against the Panthers when he went down with the injured knee on his 17th carry of the game early in the third quarter.
In three years in Arizona he averaged about nine carries per game and he never missed a game due to injury. The shoulder injury might be an indication that he was being overworked. The ACL, of course, could happen to anybody.
Hightower might be able to handle more than nine carries per game but it seems that it would be wise to hold his rushing attempts down well under 20 per game.
Hightower excels in pass protection and with rookie starter Robert Griffin III at quarterback, those skills will be welcome. He caught 63 passes out of the backfield in 2009 so there is some more ability that the Redskins can take advantage of. That doesn’t mean that he should be relegated to duty as strictly a third-down back but his carries do need to be limited.
The same holds true for Roy Helu Jr., who was the team’s prime back in the latter half of the season until he wore down under workloads of 25 carries per game.
If Griffin is going to have a successful rookie season, the Redskins will need to run the ball often and they will need to run it well. There should be about 500 carries or more for Hightower, Helu, Evan Royster and possibly rookie Alfred Morris to split up. If that can be done in a way that maximizes the effectiveness of all of the backs and has the right back in the game in the right situation, the Redskins should improve their 25th-ranked rushing game and Griffin will have a shot at reaching his potential.