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Pasch Factor: Ellington's Time Is Now

Posted Sep 15, 2017

Former starter capable of being the running back Cardinals need after Johnson injury

The David Johnson injury news was a big gut punch this week.

The likely replacement for his workload is probably a group effort. The one player who is closest to Johnson in ability, and also style, is Andre Ellington. While he will be likely just part of the solution to deal with Johnson's absence on Sunday, don't be surprised if Ellington becomes the one long-term answer at that position.

Remember, it was only a couple of years ago when Bruce Arians said the Cardinals would build the offense around Ellington. He had glimpses of brilliance early in his career and even in spot duty recently. But Ellington couldn't stay on the field. Injuries were a big problem. Plus, when he was healthy, Ellington ran like he wanted to stay healthy. There were too many times he would head for the sidelines, or look for a place to go down when he had the ball in his hands.

That led to the coaching staff choosing to move him first to receiver, then to change course and put him back at running back. When I say back, I mean way back. There were times in training camp when he was last in line in the running back drills. It looked like Ellington was destined to get cut.

However, when T.J. Logan, the rookie out of the North Carolina, was injured in the Hall of Fame game, the door swung back open for Ellington. Coupled with Chris Johnson's disappointing training camp, Ellington became almost a guarantee to make the roster. Now there's an opportunity for his story to come full circle -- from being one foot out the door and on the street as a free agent to two feet in the end zone leading the Cardinals to victory.

In my opinion, for the Cardinals to be successful on offense this season, Ellington will have to be a major piece. Kerwynn Williams deserves his carries, and we will see if anyone else gets an opportunity to be part of the gameplan at running back, but Ellington has to be front and center. Ellington has run much better this fall, he's a good receiver, and is always a threat for the home run (as we saw against Seattle in 2015 with that 48-yard touchdown run).

David Johnson seems almost impossible to replace. Yet, in my opinion, if there is one player on the Cardinals roster capable of coming close to filling his shoes, it's Andre Ellington. We will see Sunday if he gets the chance, and if so, what he does with the opportunity.

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