The New York Giants are meeting with free agent running back Tim Hightower today, according to Ralph Vacchiano of The New York Daily News. Big Blue would be smart to sign the veteran runner.
Hightower was out of football in 2012 and last played for the Giants' fierce NFC East rivals the Washington Redskins. Hightower was putting together a fine season for the Redskins in 2011.
He had carried the ball 84 times and gained 321 yards on the ground, before tearing his ACL during a Week 7 clash on the road against the Carolina Panthers. He tried to recover, but was deemed surplus to requirements in a crowded backfield rotation prior to the start of last season.
The Redskins decided to go with rookie Alfred Morris as their workhorse and penciled in youthful duo Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr as his primary backups. Washington didn't need Hightower, but the Giants do.
Their running game has been mediocre at best in recent seasons. They ranked last in rushing in 2011 and 14th in 2012. Hightower would add useful experience and vital versatility to a new-look running back position.
In the last two years the Giants have waived goodbye to veterans Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. The combination formed the foundation of Big Blue's running game, dating back to their Super Bowl triumph in 2007.
However, the Giants have committed to 2012 first-round pick David Wilson and battering ram Andre Brown. Yet that shouldn't stop head coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese adding an experienced head like Hightower to the mix.
Wilson had fumbling issues as a rookie and has yet to prove himself as an every down back. Brown meanwhile emerged from obscurity to become a solid, power-based runner between-the-tackles.
Unfortunately injury severed his promising looking campaign, after Week 12. Brown is recovering from a broken fibula and the Giants can't know how much they can rely on him.
Hightower would be able to offer the same bruising brand of running Brown can produce. At 6'0" and 220 pounds, Hightower is powerfully built and a tough runner. He ran in a zone scheme for the Redskins, but that might not suit him post-injury.
He may not be wise to risk the kind of sudden one-cut style the Redskins' system demanded, after his knee injury. The Giants run a power scheme with one-on-one blocking and offensive linemen pulling into space.
That straight-ahead style should suit Hightower. He's also more versatile than Brown and that should particularly appeal to the Giants. Hightower is a good receiver and perhaps more importantly, an excellent pass-protector.
He understands blitz recognition and blocking responsibility. Those skills would be a boost for a rebuilding offensive line and star quarterback Eli Manning. The Giants should be able to make excellent use out of Hightower on third downs.
They could even feature a backfield with both Hightower and Wilson, creating a major run-pass dilemma for defenses. The Giants haven't really had a back who can offer this kind of scheme flexibility since Derrick Ward.
Big Blue's ground attack was at its best when Ward combined with Bradshaw and Jacobs. Adding Hightower alongside Wilson and Brown would give Coughlin's offense a similarly versatile and punishing trio.
Hightower is an excellent fit in many ways for the Giants. He offers them smarts and a wide range of skills in the backfield. Still only 26, he could use the rotational role he would likely occupy in New York to get back to his best.
The Giants shouldn't wait long before adding Hightower's particular talents to help revive their rushing offense.