The situation must be bad when an entire city can get excited about a 31-year-old running back coming off a season in which he lost his starting job to a guy who will probably lose his starting job to a rookie this year.
The Edgerrin James the Seahawks have reportedly signed for the 2009 season does not in any way resemble the young man who had his own footwear line (designed by Reebok) at the beginning of the decade. That Edgerrin James was an Indianapolis Colt, a big name back, and had a supporting cast of all-stars to help raise his game.
This older, wiser, and humbler James is trying to rebound from a shaky ’08 campaign in which he was booted from the Arizona Cardinals’ starting lineup in favor of rookie Tim Hightower. Hightower, in turn, is the Cardinal living on the hot seat these days with first-year player and highly touted draft pick Chris “Beanie” Wells carrying the ball in the desert.
So the Edge the Hawks have signed is, in theory, a guy who lost his job to a guy who will probably lose his job. Kind of like the assistant to the assistant.
Not that any of that has to do with this year’s edition of Edgerrin James. His days in Arizona are behind him now, and in fairness he helped spark the Redbirds during their run to the Superbowl a season ago.
A hard-nosed runner who has been lauded as an excellent blocking back, James is expected to compete for the Seahawks’ first-string tailback position with incumbent Julius Jones. His addition also means the team will likely have to let go of either T.J. Duckett or Justin Forsett in their now-crowded backfield.
In all likelihood, it is Duckett who will suffer the wrath of being released. An aging back himself, Duckett provides a similar running style as James, albeit in more limited fashion. Though he may be a goal-line savant, the Hawks can ill afford to dedicate a roster spot to a tailback that provides the running ability of a fullback.
Forsett, on the other hand, is only a second-year player who excels on special teams and quite possibly has a promising future in the NFL. He could serve the team now as a punt returner, and later as a more prominent piece of the offense.
The best-case scenario for this team involves Julius Jones as the unquestioned starter at tailback, with James rotating in as a valuable third-down blocker and change-of-pace guy.
Unfortunately, many fans still see Edgerrin James as the starter he once was and not the quality backup he now is. We can hope for the best with Edge, but for now, it’s probably wise to keep those hopes tempered as we move forward into the start of the ’09 season.