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Homer: Replacing Tim Hightower won't be easy


themurf

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(photo by Brian Murphy)

In the days leading up to last weekend’s game, I talked to several fans of the Washington Redskins who expressed a new-found optimism in regards to their favorite football team.

Thanks to head coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to turn to John Beck as his starting quarterback, more than a few ‘Skins fans seemed to believe that better days were ahead for the burgundy and gold.

If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t fall into the same category.

Don’t get me wrong – after watching Rex Grossman turn the ball over 11 times in five games, I was on board with giving Beck a chance to sink or swim.

I’m just not sure he’s going to be much better than the guy he’s replacing.

While some look at Beck and see untapped potential, I see a guy who has yet to distinguish himself since he came into the league more than four years ago.

Some see a player who they feel has never been given a fair shot. But I see a guy who couldn’t beat out Cleo Lemon, Trent Green, Chad Henne or Chad Pennington in Miami, Troy Smith for the backup role in Baltimore or Rex Grossman during training camp.

Beck sure seems to be a swell guy, but his teams are winless in all seven games he’s played in and I’ve seen nothing over the last year and a half to suggest that he’s capable of becoming the NFL’s next feel-good story.

In fact, I’d argue that the only victory Beck has ever had came during the lockout – when the 30-year-old went from an unknown third-stringer to the presumed starter without ever throwing a single pass in an actual game.

Aside from a solid preseason performance against an Indianapolis Colts team that looks to be historically bad, Beck has been completely average in every sense of the word.

Even his stats from last weekend – against an unremarkable Carolina defense – are nothing out of the ordinary.

Beck threw for 279 yards with two touchdowns and two turnovers against Carolina, which sounds awfully similar to what Grossman did against Arizona earlier this season – 291 yards with two touchdowns and two turnovers.

Beck completed 22 of 37 passes (59.5 percent) against Carolina. In related news, Grossman completed 22 of 37 passes (59.5 percent) against Dallas.

The only real difference between the two mediocre quarterbacks is that Beck is much more mobile, which is great because the Redskins offensive line at this point is best described as a work in progress.

So while many Redskins fans continue to hold out hope that Beck can provide a much-needed spark to Washington’s anemic offense, my hopes of better days were crushed when running back Tim Hightower’s left knee buckled during the third quarter in Charlotte.

While neither Redskins quarterback inspires much in the way of confidence with me, Hightower was the one player in the backfield who I truly believed could be a difference maker this season.

I thought the trade with Arizona to acquire the 25-year-old back for Vonnie Holiday, a defensive lineman who didn’t appear to be in the team’s plans, was an absolute steal.

Before the season began, I envisioned Hightower as a 1,000-yard rusher who would help propel Washington’s ground game into the NFL’s top 10 for the first time under Shanahan.

And just like that, Hightower’s season is over thanks to an ACL tear.

A game that started with such promise – Hightower picked up 67 yards on nine first-quarter carries against the Panthers – ended with heartbreak for a player who had never missed a game prior to this season.

The fourth-year pro played in five games this year – with 84 carries for 321 yards and two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving).

In his brief time with the Redskins, Hightower showed he had solid hands out of the backfield, proved to be dependable in pass blocking and assumed a leadership role in the locker room.

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i love your articles murf, yet i didnt see much of an argument for the replacement of hightower being very difficult.

by most people's accounts, its a toss up as to whether torain is better than hightower. also, helu, probably our most talented back, will get more carries and become more familiar with this offense. in addition, we'll get to see what we have in royster, while also getting him some nfl experience.

if there is one position where i think we could afford an injury, its prolly the rb position.

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i love your articles murf, yet i didnt see much of an argument for the replacement of hightower being very difficult.

by most people's accounts, its a toss up as to whether torain is better than hightower. also, helu, probably our most talented back, will get more carries and become more familiar with this offense. in addition, we'll get to see what we have in royster, while also getting him some nfl experience.

if there is one position where i think we could afford an injury, its prolly the rb position.

I'm not as big on Ryan Torain. He runs too up-right and leaves himself vulnerable to punishing hits and isn't the home-run threat that Roy Helu is. Torain is a good back who deserves playing time, but with Tim Hightower done for the year I'd really love to see if Helu can be an every-down back.

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I'm not as big on Ryan Torain. He runs too up-right and leaves himself vulnerable to punishing hits and isn't the home-run threat that Roy Helu is. Torain is a good back who deserves playing time, but with Tim Hightower done for the year I'd really love to see if Helu can be an every-down back.

i do as well, i think that shanny will slowly implement what you've mentioned. its just a matter of time before i get to say "Helu, Goodbye", as Helu rips the first long TD of his career.

i did like hightower's blocking skills. hopefully we dont see a dropoff there.

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i do as well, i think that shanny will slowly implement what you've mentioned. its just a matter of time before i get to say "Helu, Goodbye", as Helu rips the first long TD of his career.

i did like hightower's blocking skills. hopefully we dont see a dropoff there.

We'll see a drop-off there. I think he's their only back who can play in every down and formation. He isn't as fast as Helu and he isn't as violent a runner as Torain, but overall he had a better complete set of skills to date.

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I'm not too worried about Hightower. Yes he was off to a pretty good start, but if there is one position where we actually have some depth, its RB. I think Torain, Helu, and Royster or whoever else, are more than capable of carrying the load the rest of the way.

Pretty sure you and I see the situation completely different. Hightower had never missed a game in his career. Torain has never played in all 16 games in a season. The other two options are unproven rookies. Without Hightower, the position is a lot less stable.

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Pretty sure you and I see the situation completely different. Hightower had never missed a game in his career. Torain has never played in all 16 games in a season. The other two options are unproven rookies. Without Hightower, the position is a lot less stable.

Oh I definitely see your points. I'd rather not have to look to an injury prone RB and 2 rookies, but it seems like every year some no name RB comes out of no where for some team and plays well. I mean look at Torain last year or Ryan Grant or Ahmad Bradshaw, etc. While its not an ideal situation, I don't think its a big problem for us. I'm more worried about replacing Moss.

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I agree with Murf. Replacing THT won't be that easy, sure Torain is quite good, but I still think he won't be able to finish the season without any injuries. So we'll be down to Royster and Helu to see what those kids do have in tank. They look promising, but that remains to be seen, just like Beck.

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Oh I definitely see your points. I'd rather not have to look to an injury prone RB and 2 rookies, but it seems like every year some no name RB comes out of no where for some team and plays well. I mean look at Torain last year or Ryan Grant or Ahmad Bradshaw, etc. While its not an ideal situation, I don't think its a big problem for us. I'm more worried about replacing Moss.

If I'm not mistaken, last year's Redskins -- which included Ryan Torain -- had the least productive ground game of any team Mike Shanahan has ever coached. They ranked 30th in the NFL, when no other Shanahan team had ever finished below 20th. Add in the whole injury-prone thing and I'm just not sure how much Torain can be relied upon to carry the load.

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As always good read.....he will not be easily repalced with all of the intangibles that he does well. Torain has never made it through a season healthy and Helu is a better change of pace guy. Will see what Royster can do as well. The blocking and pass catching our of the backfield is too often taken for granted. (see Cp in his prime)

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With Hightower out for the year I would love to see Helu and Royster try to carry the load. Torain is a good power back but I really want to see what our young talent looks like. I dont think this roster is as devoid of talent as some on this board would have us believe. Time for a youth movement!!!!

Also, another great article Murf, keep up the good work as always. Hail!

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If I'm not mistaken, last year's Redskins -- which included Ryan Torain -- had the least productive ground game of any team Mike Shanahan has ever coached. They ranked 30th in the NFL, when no other Shanahan team had ever finished below 20th. Add in the whole injury-prone thing and I'm just not sure how much Torain can be relied upon to carry the load.

True, but I believe our line is better this year, or at least was. But Torain won't have to carry the full load this year. Helu has looked really good with the chances he's had so far. Last year, we didn't have a choice when Portis went down but to go with Torain.

Do I think Torain will stay healthy the rest of the way? Probably not, but I think Helu is the best RB on the roster including Hightower. So I'm not too worried, yet.

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HT's injury sucks, for everyone.

Now its up to Mike and Kyle to utilize Torain and Helu to their strengths, not to what the coaches like to run.

Torain isn't like HT in the effect that he can quickly get outside and burn it; he's a 1 cut and go guy, not quick enough from sideline to sideline, but more of a bruiser, even though his durability is still in question. A straight bull run right up the middle is more to his tune, and a great short yardage back.

Helu, he's more versatile and quick, which comes with being a rookie. He has the abilities of HT to run the stretch or sweep, but still enough is not known about him to make the correct tag, but certainly looks to be a great screen back, if he can catch.

I doubt the running attack will suffer much; hec, it may even improve, and at least Helu will get more time to show his skills, as long as they are both used in the right formations...

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Good read man, but I don't agree about Beck. We will see though, but comparing his one start to several different starts of Grossman is not an accurate defense. I do believe we will see the power of Hightower being missed sooner then we think. This guy could very well be a Redskin for life, and I hope he comes back better then ever after this injury

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Hey Murf, great read as always.

But I don't think you're giving Torain enough credit. I'll give you that he is injury prone but what RB isn't. Most RBs in the league suffer injuries through the course of a year. It is a brutal position to play in. Also you gotta admit when Torain came in the Rams game, he was running very violently and with bad intentions. I hate losing TH because he is such a major cog of this offense but Torain is more than capable of stepping up. Helu and Torain make a great combo at RB.

Also with the eventual promotion of Royster, we still have a pretty decent trio of RBs.

:helmet:

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