Tim Hightower rushes, blocks toward starting job

August 13, 2011

Tim Hightower arrived in Washington expecting to jostle with Ryan Torain, the Redskins’ leading rusher last season, for the starting running back job.

One game into the preseason, there hasn’t been much of a battle. After leading the Arizona Cardinals in rushing last season, Hightower began this campaign by turning in 10 carries for 44 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers during his Redskins debut in Friday night’s preseason opener at FedEx Field.

Torain, sidelined with a broken hand, could only watch.

“He’s a great player and he had a lot of great plays out there tonight,” said Torain, who was originally scheduled to miss seven to 10 days and might return to practice next week. But his staus for next Friday’s preseason game in Indianapolis is uncertain. “He brings a lot of positives to the offense and he’s definitely going to help the offense out.”

Hightower helped the offense move from the Washington 1-yard line to Pittburgh’s 11-yard line on the Redskins’ opening drive. The Episcopal High product strung together runs of six, 11 and 16 yards before catching an eight-yard flare pass to set up a second-and-short situation on the Pittsburgh 31.

Of equal importance, the Redskins may have found their pass-blocking replacement for Clinton Portis — who was one of the league’s best — in Hightower. Along with his physical running style, Hightower helped the running game with his blocking during three possessions on the field.

Inside the Steelers’ red zone on his last possession, Hightower had a six-yard run, then bought quarterback Rex Grossman extra time with a block on the following play. Grossman found wide receiver Santana Moss across the middle for an eight-yard touchdown pass.

“He’s been great from Day One in pass protection,” Grossman said. “He seems like he’s as good as Clinton was as far as being able to stick his nose in there and get those guys at the line.”

The Cardinals drafted Hightower in the fifth round in the 2008 NFL draft. He recorded his best season in 2010, rushing for a career-high 736 yards while finishing with five touchdowns and 21 catches for 136 yards for the Cardinals.

His journey has taken him from Alexandria to the University of Richmond to Arizona and back to the nation’s capital. Now with an opportunity to win the starting job, Hightower said he is humbled by the opportunity.

“I’m here to do my job and whatever it is, I’m going to do it. I’m not counting numbers right now. We have a talented backfield, so whatever I have to do, I’m going to do it.”

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