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Cardinals Fit Just Right For Andre Ellington

Posted Oct 7, 2013

Arians: Rookie running back getting 30 to 32 plays "a good load for him"

Running back Andre Ellington rushes for some of his 52 yards during Sunday's win over Carolina.

The particular draft guide broke down the strengths and weaknesses of Clemson running back Andre Ellington. At the bottom of the section noted his NFL projection: “Second-to-third round pick.”

That didn’t hold up in April, when Ellington was left waiting and wondering before he was finally picked in the sixth round – with the second of two sixth-round choices – by the Cardinals. But it seems to fit with what Ellington has quickly become for the Cards: An electrifying option out of the backfield earning playing time at a fast rate.

Ellington shrugs off his draft drop these days though. “I told myself things happen for a reason,” the rookie said. “This is a great situation for me.”

Ellington played a season-high 30 offensive snaps against the Panthers Sunday, his number of plays increasing all the way from eight in the season opener. The production was there too, with a team-leading 52 yards rushing on only seven carries (7.4 yards a try) and another 31 yards on four receptions.

Starter Rashard Mendenhall remains in place, and that doesn’t figure to change anytime soon, and definitely not with Ellington. Coach Bruce Arians said Monday he liked the “good mix” of Ellington and Mendenhall in the backfield.

Mendenhall had 17 carries for 43 yards and the team’s rushing touchdown, along with a pair of catches.

“I think both of them need to touch it right about the number of times they did in this ballgame,” Arians said.

Arians added he doesn’t want to overload a rookie like Ellington. “He’s a runner (and) we’ve kind of turned him into a receiver,” Arians said. “I think that’s his role as a future player, as a 30-down player. I don’t think his body-type is going to be the lead-dog runner.”

That probably disappoints the fantasy owners grabbing Ellington after some of his sparkling plays, but it doesn’t faze Ellington. He has no doubt he could if asked, but he’s OK with the part where he’s playing a part in winning in the NFL. That works for him.

“I have done it in college where I had to carry the load,” Ellington said. “Maybe I’m not getting the carries like I did, but coach is getting me in space and getting me the ball, and that’s something I like.”

The running back pecking order has been established pretty clearly here in Arians’ first season. Mendenhall starts – and continued to do so even after a rough game in Tampa – and his lone dip behind Ellington in plays in a game came only in New Orleans when the Cards were playing from behind. In that game, Ellington had 27 snaps, Mendenhall 23.

Where the playing time has changed the last two weeks is the snaps for Alfonso Smith, who had no fewer than 17 in each of the first three games but has played just nine the past two games.

As for rookie Stepfan Taylor (nine total offensive snaps this season) and Ryan Williams (inactive all five games), Arians said Taylor has been doing a good job on special teams. Williams doesn’t play special teams and therefore remains inactive on game days, Arians said, but “if and when the opportunity comes, I’m sure he’ll be ready.”

That’s the same thought process Ellington has used. Arians said he started to emerge early in the offseason OTAs, but Ellington chuckled when asked if he had an inkling he had begun to make an impression at that point.

“They didn’t give me anything,” Ellington said. “Coach (Arians) is going to get on you if you mess up. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t get chewed out.”

That’s not a problem now. Ellington has averaged 6.7 yards on 18 rushes and 11.1 yards on 13 receptions, and he’s clearly a major component of the offense now. The draft and where he was picked is in the rear view mirror, his hamstring problems that short-circuited both his Senior Bowl and his Scouting combine work long in the past.

“It’s simple for me, I'm just excited to play in the NFL,” Ellington said. “My role is really something I like.”

EXTRA POINTS

Arians said the only injury coming out of Sunday’s game was linebacker Kenny Demens hurting his hamstring. Arians said Demens was “very doubtful” to play this week. …

Arians also said LB Jasper Brinkley (groin) and S Rashad Johnson (finger) have a chance to return this week. …

After video review, Arians was pleased with new left tackle Bradley Sowell. “There are a lot of things he can improve upon,” Arians said. “But overall he battled really hard against a really good player.”


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