Hightower Gets Off to Big Start as Starter

Tim Hightower (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty)

The Cardinals lead the NFL in scoring, and they continue to add new elements to their offense. The latest is the promotion of rookie running back Tim Hightower into the starting lineup over veteran Edgerrin James. In his first start, Hightower rushed for 109 yards on 22 carries, including a 30-yard touchdown run.

While voicing his support for Tim Hightower, James made it clear he wasn't happy with the new arrangement. Not that it was unexpected; James' role had diminished in the two previous games.

"Man, it's been brewing for a while," he said. "I'm supportive of Tim and happy for him."

When asked he felt the move was meant to punish him for speaking his mind, James replied:

"I don't fit the 'yes-man' mold, so it's going to always come down on me. I'm not going to be a yes man. They can sit me down for the rest of the year, it don't matter."

The Cardinals tweaked their running game against the Rams, going to more of a power blocking scheme that featured more pulling from linemen.

That style suits Hightower more than it does James. Hightower is more of a one-cut, "downhill" runner, while James likes to hunt and peck for holes.

"I expected him to have a big day," James said of Hightower. "We knew we should have a big day running the ball, regardless of who was in there."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Cardinals are 5-3 at the midway point in the season. It's their first winning record after eight games since the 1984 season.

--The Cardinals have won four of their last nine games by at least 20 points. From 1986 through 2006, the Cardinals won only six games by a margin of 20 or more points.

--Rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was called for a personal foul for slamming down receiver Torry Holt out of bounds. Holt scored a TD against the rookie a few plays later. "He patted me on my head and said, 'Rook, keep working: everything will come together,'" Rodgers-Cromartie said.

--Offensive coordinator Todd Haley thinks his group of players is much tougher than it was a year ago.

"We've shown we can overcome bad plays. We can overcome a three-and-out. We didn't feel like that last year. You felt like you had to convert every third down. The margin of error was so much smaller. Now, you don't have to panic and you can overcome some bad plays."

--Tim Hightower gives Edgerrin James considerable credit for serving as his mentor. Hightower has taken James' job, so the move is a bittersweet one for the rookie.

"He's pretty much held me by the hand and walked me through a lot of things," Hightower said.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--OT Mike Gandy should be able to play this week after suffering a sprained right ankle against the Rams last week.

--RB Edgerrin James had started all 135 NFL games in which he was active. That streak ended on Sunday when he suited up but didn't play against the Rams.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald dropped two passes against the Rams. Those were his first two drops of the season.

--RB Tim Hightower's 30-yard touchdown run was the team's longest run in more than three years. It was the club's longest TD run since 2002.

--CB Antrel Rolle's 40-yard interception return for a touchdown was the fourth of his career. Only Aeneas Williams (six) and Larry Wilson (5) have more in franchise history.

--WR Anquan Boldin reached 450 career receptions in his 74th game. That's the earliest of any player in NFL history.

--LB Ali Highsmith suffered a serious right knee injury in last Sunday's game and is likely done for the season. He had been productive on special teams.

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